The following NAMI programs are designed to educate and support families:
NAMI Family Support Group is a peer-led support group for family members, caregivers and loved ones of individuals living with mental illness. Most groups meet monthly for about 90 minutes. The hallmark of a NAMI Support Group is leveraging the collective knowledge and experience of all the participants.
An Environment of Sincere, Uncritical Support
At each meeting, you review the Group Guidelines and Principles of Support and update the group on the current events in your life. We then spend the bulk of the meeting in group discussion, or “group work.” The group addresses urgent issues of its members, and participants share their learned experience, or “group wisdom.” As a participant, your voice is heard, and you can contribute to a dynamic that encourages empathy, productive discussion and a sense of community.
Tools for Caring for Yourself and Your Loved One
The support group can offer you practical advice on addressing issues related to mental illness and your loved one. It also gives you the appropriate space to have your personal needs met so that you can provide the best possible care for your family member. Taking time to voice your experiences and to hear from others may help you develop your inner reserves of strength. You may gain confidence in your ability to cope with your family member’s mental illness as well as local knowledge on how to best access needed services for your family member.
The Principles of Support
- We will see the individual first, not the illness.
- We recognize that mental illnesses are medical illnesses that may have environmental triggers.
- We understand that mental illnesses are traumatic events.
- We aim for better coping skills.
- We find strength in sharing experiences.
- We reject stigma and do not tolerate discrimination.
- We won’t judge anyone’s pain as less than our own.
- We forgive ourselves and reject guilt.
- We embrace humor as healthy.
- We accept we cannot solve all problems.
- We expect a better future in a realistic way.
- We will never give up hope.
Reflections from Family Support Group Participants
“Using the NAMI support group model is so essential to the success of our family support groups. As a group, the collective wisdom covered a lot of possibilities towards the issues.”
“The most beneficial thing for me was that I discovered I am not alone. I found the NAMI Family Support Group at the time I really needed it!”
What Makes NAMI Support Groups Unique?
The NAMI Support Group model (formerly called the “Family-to-Family Support Group model”) operates differently than other, more traditional “share-and-care” groups. The NAMI Support Group model offers a set of key structures and group processes for facilitators to use in common support group scenarios. These structures come with clear guidelines to follow; used together, they encourage full group participation in support group meetings. The structures of the new model feel comfortable for both seasoned and less-experienced facilitators because they guide the support group along in every situation.
As a facilitator, how do you ensure that a support group starts and stops on time? What do you do if someone monopolizes all of the group’s time? How should you handle disrespectful group members? What should you do if someone brings up a “hot potato” subject such as suicide or involuntary commitment? What about someone who seems to have a problem that’s just not solvable? How do you ensure that quiet members in the group get a chance to participate?
Support group facilitators face these issues in their groups every day. And effective support group facilitators are the key to making any support group experience positive and productive. The NAMI Facilitator Skills Support Group training enables support group facilitators to run useful, helpful support groups. NAMI affiliates know that effective support groups are a key facet of NAMI’s grassroots organization.
The NAMI Support Group model is not just for Family-to-Family Education course graduates, nor is it just for family members. It is a model that can be used by any NAMI support group. NAMI Rhode Island, the state NAMI organization, seeks charitable donations annually to increase our ability to implement the NAMI Support Group model by sending people to the NAMI National Facilitator Skills Workshop every June to become state trainers. State trainers are then able to conduct state and local level workshops to train facilitators at our local Rhode Island affiliates in the NAMI Support Group model.
What is NAMI’s Family-to-Family Program?
The NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program is a free, 12-week course for family caregivers of individuals with severe mental illnesses.
- The course is taught by trained family members
- Over 300,000 family members have graduated from this national program
What does the course include?
Current information about schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder (manic depression), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, and co-occurring brain disorders and addictive disorders
- Up-to-date information about medications, side effects, and strategies for medication adherence
- Current research related to the biology of brain disorders and the evidence-based, most effective treatments to promote recovery
- Gaining empathy by understanding the subjective, lived experience of a person with mental illness
- Learning in special workshops for problem solving, listening, and communication techniques
- Acquiring strategies for handling crises and relapse
- Focusing on care for the caregiver: coping with worry, stress, and emotional overload
- Guidance on locating appropriate supports and services within the community
- Information on advocacy initiatives designed to improve and expand services
What is NAMI Basics?
NAMI Basics is the new signature education program for parents and other caregivers of children and adolescents living with mental illnesses. The NAMI Basics course is taught by trained teachers who are the parent or other caregivers of individuals who developed the symptoms of mental illness prior to the age of 13 years.
The course consists of six classes, each lasting for 2 ½ hours. Classes may be offered weekly for six consecutive weeks, or may be offered twice per week for three weeks to accommodate the hectic schedules of parents.
All instruction materials are FREE to participants.