Family to Family class


The Family to Family (F2F) class, sponsored by the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), will begin on March 5 in Vineyard Haven. According to a press release, the class provides hope to family members of loved ones with mental illness. The course is evidenced-based — scientifically proven to empower those who take it -— and participants in the class have credited it as a key turning point in their struggle to help their loved one.

“Family members often come into the course raw with hurt, confusion, and desperate for help. They leave the class better able to work the situation that mental illness has left them and their family member in, and with a community to turn to for help,” said Margaret Burke, a former teacher of the course. Since 2009, more than 140 Island family members have taken the course.

The F2F course explains mental illness is an illness of the brain, and not the fault of the individual or parents. The F2F course explains the many mental illnesses and their symptoms, the medications, and the side effects. It provides information on mental health resources, how to talk to doctors, and how to navigate the courts, and the course provides much-needed support. There are peers in the class who have had the same experiences, and who have experienced success.

A lack of information in the community and the stigma of mental illness in society prevent an understanding of the illness.

“I was sort of clueless. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know what mental illness meant, what someone suffering goes through,” said one mother.

Three mothers reported being sent home by doctors and other health professionals with medications, and told to self-administer and determine themselves what worked. Another, whose child was suffering a major depressive state and would not leave the house, was refused at-home care. She was told her child would have to come in to the office: “I said, ‘If she had two broken legs, would you be doing this?’”

NAMI and the F2F class understand that people with mental illness cannot pull themselves up by their bootstraps. There are no boots, there are no straps. A mental illness is an illness of the brain, just as cancer or diabetes is an illness of the body. It must be treated, not judged.

The F2F course begins March 5 at 6 pm and runs three hours, one night a week, for 12 weeks. Call Megan at 508-939-0681 for location of meeting, more information, and to register.