By: Anthony Scardina, NAMI Dane County Intern
Since it's founding, NAMI Dane County has worked to create a community where those affected by mental illness feel safe and supported. Through providing a wide range of peer support groups and education courses, we have been able to help thousands of people cope with the effects of living with and caring for those affected by mental illness. One of these programs is the NAMI Basics class.
NAMI Basics is a six week education course that gives parents and caregivers of children who are experiencing mental health challenges the opportunity to learn and develop the skills needed to best support their child. Throughout the six weeks, participants gain practical skills, up-to-date information about mental health challenges, and learn how to effectively advocate for their child in regards to the school and mental health systems. The class is taught by trained facilitators (parents who have previously taken a NAMI Basics class).
I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Linda, a former NAMI Basics participant and now trained facilitator, to learn more about how she first got involved with the program and what her experience with the program has been like overall.
Linda shared, "I took the NAMI Basics class 10 years ago because I was struggling to help my young daughter who had been experiencing mental health challenges. The class offered me a chance to go the extra mile in learning how to better help her. What I didn’t realize prior to signing up was that I would be joining much more than just what I thought would be a simple, six-week education course."
In fact, Linda's experience with NAMI Basics provided her a much-needed place to meet other parents who were facing the same struggles that she was: "In the program, I felt a sense of community, one that I had been longing for, for some time."
When asked about what she found to be most helpful about the NAMI Basics class, Linda said, "...being provided the knowledge needed to work with my child’s school helped tremendously. It also helped me to come to terms with the idea that my child’s mental illness is a brain disorder and may never go away. Once I realized that, I could better help her get the help she needed."
If Linda could offer one piece of advice to other parents struggling to help their child it's, “...come sooner rather than later, because there are people here who really want to help you.”
If you are a parent or caregiver struggling to help a child with mental health challenges, and would like to find out more about our NAMI Basis program, click here.