Toolkit for Successful Living With Mental Health Issues [Part 1]

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Mental Health

When a person experiences difficulty with mental health, it may not be easy to handle life’s curveballs and gentle pitches alike. Fortunately, there are resources, education, and peer counselors to add to life’s toolbox.

NAMI Offers Vast Number of Tools

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is an organization, in the U.S., for both suffers and their concerned friends and family. The group leaders describe NAMI as:

The nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

One of the services offered to those with mental health concerns is a person at the other end of the phone. Staffed by professionals and volunteers, the NAMI HelpLine answers “hundreds of thousands of calls per year.” Here, people can speak to someone, obtain information about help in their area, and learn about the education programs offered by state NAMI offices and their affiliates.

The HelpLine staff cannot provide counseling, but they do have resources to assist the callers in finding mental health services, either for themselves or family members. Between the hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, callers can find information about mental health topics, such as:

  • Symptoms of various mental health problems;
  • Treatment options;
  • Local services and support groups;
  • Available education in the area;
  • How to find help for a loved one;
  • Programs to find employment;
  • If in crisis, the caller will be referred to the appropriate emergency services agency.

Mental Health Support Groups Through NAMI

Most of the support groups are facilitated by trained mentors, who are also people with their own mental health issues. The NAMI calendar is filled with peer-run meetings for adults:

  • Bipolar Recovery;
  • Schizophrenia Support Group;
  • Depression Bipolar Support Alliance Meetup;
  • Groups for Men or Women;
  • Family and Peer Support Meeting.

Mental HealthThere is a weekly meeting called the Friday Goodness Group in Portland, Oregon. Participants spend time creating something that is productive, creative, and uplifting. This is a healthy approach to coping with mental health issues, which is often used in outpatient therapy and hospitals.

Mental Health Anti-Stigma Education

NAMI offers free education programs, advocacy, and outreach to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. There are classes for those caring for children and adolescents living with or who have not yet been diagnosed with mental health conditions.

Family-to-Family classes are for family members, friends, and significant others to facilitate greater understanding, develop coping skills, and learn to become advocates for their loved ones. NAMI Homefront is a program that teaches the same but adds the training for living with veterans and military service members. This includes learning to cope with the mental health challenges typical to those in the armed forces.

NAMI also has a program for mental health providers. Another is Parents and Teachers as Allies, which teaches awareness and how to spot the warning signs of mental illness in the school environment.

Mental HealthPeer-to-Peer and Wellness By Design Programs

Teaching those with mental health conditions is a focal point of NAMI’s programs. In Peer-to-Peer, trained mentors facilitate 10 classes. During the sessions, there are discussions about understanding one’s emotions; relapse prevention; methods to focus on experiencing joy; and understanding how spirituality and physical health can make one’s life easier.

Mindfulness is a tool that is taught in Peer-to-Peer classes. Using this method, those with mental health challenges learn to pay attention to their physical and mental selves to understand the troublesome triggers. One tool is memory cards:

To be mindful, I am aware of my emotional mind and my thinking mind, and what my intuition (my gut) is telling me. I am using my WISE MIND.

Mindfulness HOW skills: 1 – Don’t judge, focus on the facts of what you see. 2 – Stay focused, do one thing at a time. Let go of distractions. Concentrate. 3 – Be effective. Focus on what works. Play by the rules. Focus on your goals and values.

I am particpating in my life with awareness. I am paying attention to what I am thinking and feeling. I am in control of my mind instead of letting my mind control me.

Mindfulness WHAT skills: 1 – Notice what you are experiencing, i.e., seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking without words or labels. 2 – Put into words what you are observing. It is focusing on just the facts. 3 – Particpate. Take action. Go with the flow. Be spontaneous. Practicing over and over when necessary.

Mental HealthWellness by Design is the program that takes the next step. In this series of classes, participants learn how to master their recovery. Mastery is imperative for continued mental health wellness, and this 6-week series offers the tools needed.

Jeana Wheeler and Jean Duncan designed the mastery program and its curriculum, who are trained mentors in Portland. Wheeler and Duncan are hopeful NAMI will use this successful mental health wellness program at the national level.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware


NAMI: Who We Are; What We Do
NAMI Peer-to-Peer: Recovery Education Program
Wellness by Design: Mastering Your Recovery

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Green MPs’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of Mecklenburg County’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image Courtesy of Kari Sullivan’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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