Local volunteers will present 12-week NAMI course

    DOVER-FOXCROFT — Recently, President Barack Obama proclaimed May 2013 as National Mental Health Awareness Month. He has called upon all Americans to learn more about mental health issues to guide those who are struggling with mental illness to get the help they need.

lo-NAMI-dcX-po-19Contributed photo

NAMI COURSE — Beth Ranagan, left, and Debbie Somers review the NAMI Family-to-Family course curriculum for the class that they will co-teach beginning  May 21 in Dover-Foxcroft.

    The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Maine and two local volunteers will sponsor a free Family-to-Family Education Program specifically designed for families of people diagnosed with mental illness. The 12 week series of classes will be offered for the first time in Dover-Foxcroft beginning on Tuesday, May 21 from 4 to 6:30 p.m.
    The course is designed specifically for parents, siblings, spouses, teenage and adult children and significant others of persons with severe and persistent mental illness. The curriculum has been written by an experienced family member mental health professional, and the course is being taught by NAMI family member volunteers who have taken intensive training to be course instructors. The co-teachers for the course are from the Dover-Foxcroft area.
    Debbie Somers and Beth Ranagan became involved with NAMI Maine because they both have a family member who developed a serious mental illness. Ranagan first heard about NAMI Maine through the NAMI Bangor Affiliate in 2000 when a good friend said, “Oh, you have to come to our support group.”  During meetings she learned that with NAMI “you are never alone as a family member trying to understand mental illness.”
    Ranagan subsequently took the NAMI facilitator support training and has conducted on-demand sessions as well as telephone support in the Piscataquis area. She took the NAMI Family-to-Family Instructor Training to teach the course at Acadia Hospital in Bangor. She served on the NAMI Bangor Board of Directors. Ranagan was delighted when she heard that Somers had taken the Family-to-Family training so that, at last, a class could be presented in the Dover-Foxcroft. The class requires two trained teachers.
    Somers also heard about NAMI by talking to people about support groups and the Family-to-Family course. She decided to take the teacher training and the support group facilitator training “for myself and for the people in the Dover-Foxcroft area. I saw a need for this kind of service, this kind of support, and didn’t see a lot available in this area. If you wanted to get support or access services, most of what was available was a medical model. NAMI is a more community focused way to educate people to get the information out.”
    Both teachers want to make a real difference and provide support and education to people who have mental illnesses and their family members in Piscataquis County. “The classes were important for me to understand where I was coming from so I could bring that back to the people in my community.  Everybody was so supportive, and I saw that I was not alone in this,” said Somers of her experience taking the 12-week course herself. 
    Ranagan said, “The Family-to-Family course is a wealth of information concerning the major mental illnesses. The class helped me to communicate better with my loved relative and others with mental illness.”
    Somers would like to see a NAMI Maine affiliate develop in Piscataquis County in order to “get the NAMI voice heard in the area.” Ranagan said, “An ongoing support group is truly needed in the area so that people don’t have to drive all the way to Bangor for the service.  Family-to-family and a support group will build community awareness and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.”
    The Family-to-Family course will cover information about schizophrenia, the mood disorders (bipolar disorder and major depression), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other major illnesses.  In addition, coping skills, such as, handling crisis and relapse; basic information about medications; listening and communication techniques; problem-solving skills; recovery and rehabilitation; and self-care around worry and stress will be included. 
    “This course is a wonderful experience!” says Christine Canty Brooks Director of Peer and Family Support at NAMI Maine in Augusta. “It balances education and skill-training with emotional support, self-care and empowerment. We hope families with relatives who have a mental illness will take advantage of this unique opportunity.”
    Pre-registration is required. Family members can enroll up through the third class (June 4). For more information or to enroll, call Debbie Somers at 564-2393 or Ranagan at 924-7903.

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