Parents of mentally ill children now have free support in the Roaring Fork Valley. It comes in the form of two support groups and a free class, offered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which opened a local chapter in September.
“When I was looking for support for myself, I found that there wasn’t anything available in our area,” said Anika Neal, president of the chapter’s eight-member board. “Because of my own need and a passion to helps others, I found NAMI.”
The organization, located in Glenwood Springs, offers two ongoing support groups in the area. The first — which meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month — is open to adults and caregivers who tend to any family members affected by mental illness. The second — which meets the second Monday of each month — is specifically for parents and caregivers who have an adolescent or child with mental illness.
“There’s a need for parents and caregivers of all ages to get support, but ... our valley lacks support for parents of a child or adolescent, so this is exciting,” Neal said.
Aspen City Council member Ann Mullins brought NAMI’s presence in the valley to the attention of the council this fall. She said there is a definite need for mental-health services in the valley, particularly for family members of the ill.
Starting in January, NAMI will offer a free 12-week course for adults and caregivers affected by loved ones with mental illness. Running from 6:30-9 p.m., the class begins Jan. 7 and will continue for 12 consecutive Tuesdays. To ensure privacy, the exact location is available only through enrollment. Cost of materials is covered by NAMI Colorado.
Neal will teach the course with Ann Stewart, who also has been affected by mental illness in the family. Neal, who has facilitated the class five times, has taught 40 previous participants. She said that for some people, it’s the first time hearing that mental illness is a brain disorder, not a result of bad parenting, genes or socioeconomic status.
“I also think that for some families, it’s the first time they realize that hope is possible ... that recovery is possible, that there’s hope for their loved one’s future,” Neal said.
Both women are volunteers who have been trained by NAMI. The 12-week course will include information on illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic-stress disorder. In class, participants discuss medication, problem solving, communication, empathy, self care and the science behind mental illness. Neal emphasizes that she and Stewart are not therapists or counselors, but parents who can offer peer-to-peer support.
For more information on the organization and its programs, contact Neal at 970-618-7770 or firstname.lastname@example.org.