Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Standard Examiner/Ogden, Utah/ Article!

I co-teach a class every Wednesday for 6 weeks called "From Hope to Recovery".  Our local newspaper came to our first class last week and did this article for us.

Group helps families cope with mental illness
By Chris O'Nan
Created Oct 5 2009 - 10:42pm
Standard-Examiner Davis Bureau

CLEARFIELD -- Gary Smith stood before a group of family, friends, teachers and health professionals as they piled demands upon him in the form of cleaning supplies, pots, books and medicine bottles.

Each member of the group held one end of a piece of string and attached the other end to Smith to represent their ties to his daily life, all making demands and saying, "Is that too much to ask?"
Smith said he felt "strung up and weighed down."
The exercise was part of a From Hope to Recovery meeting that is helping people care for mentally ill children with support and information.

After the activity, the group discussed ways they could get help from others and eliminate some of their daily pressures.

Smith, of Washington Terrace, said he has dealt with mental illness within his family for most of his life and wants to share his experiences with others.

Karen Greenwell, program manager for Allies with Families, directed the program. Allies with Families is a nonprofit organization that provides support, education and advocacy for families who have children with mental illness. The organization is funded with federal, state, and local grants and contracts.

"Our goal is to have one From Hope to Recovery program every quarter in various areas of the state," she said.

During the meetings, volunteer program teachers Susan Seper and Diane Hess lead the group with PowerPoint study materials, discussions and activities.

The group focused on such areas as:

SBlt The impact mental illness has on family members, including siblings, and ways to cope with various situations.

SBlt Diagnosis of illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

SBlt Navigating the mental health system.

SBlt Helping children with mental illness succeed in school.

SBlt Education about services provided for people with disabilities.

SBlt Self-care and coming to terms with a mental illness diagnosis and daily living.

"As a parent of a child with mental illness, I want to give other people hope so they can do more than just survive," Seper said.

"I took this program myself, and found coping techniques and support so we could be successful in dealing with day-to-day living."

She said as a single parent, every aspect of her child's treatment and life needed her close attention.

"I was the one who had to make every appointment and respond to every call from the school," she said. "Everything depended on me, and I had no help."

Seper said she learned through the program how to get help in the school and what services were offered for her son.

She said she also became better prepared to respond to medical professionals.

"I met other parents in similar situations," she said.

"We exchanged phone numbers and called each other and talked. It let me know that others were in the same situation, and I was not alone."

She said because of the help the program provided for her family, she decided to volunteer as a teacher to share with other people, so they could have the same experience.

"We still have our struggles, but I am better able to cope with things as they come up," Seper said, "and I can better explain our situation to others so we can get help."

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