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Carroll County National Alliance on Mental Illness to hold family support class in March

The Carroll County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, will be offering a 12-week Family-to-Family class starting in March designed to help the family members of people dealing with mental illness better understand, connect with and support those loved ones.

“It’s presented by family members of people with mental illness, for them,” said Carol Carr-Meinecke, a volunteer with the chapter. “Then they learn different things, like what it feels like to be psychotic and hearing voices, and workshops on communication to work on improving things to help the whole family.”

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The free program will be held Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. beginning March 13 in Westminster. The exact location will be discussed with those interested upon registration, according to Carr-Meinecke.

Those interested should email Jacqueline Spielman at ttspielman@verizon.net, or Mike Yankowski at mjyank@gmail.com, no later than March 4.

Carroll County NAMI has been operating since the 1980s, and offers the program on a regular basis, according to Carr-Meinecke, but she said they would like bring more people on board.

“We do offer it twice a year, so in the spring starting in March, and then in the fall,” she said. “The only problem we’re having is getting the word out. Most people don’t know that we exist.”

NAMI is the largest grassroots mental health organization in the U.S., Carr-Meinecke said, working on the national, local and state levels to advocate for laws and policies that “impact people with mental health issues.”

The chapter also operates a twice monthly drop-in support group for family members of people with mental illness, she said. That group meets at 6:45 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of every month at the Carroll Nonprofit Building, 255 Clifton Blvd., Westminster.

Carr-Meinecke said she is also working on a peer-to-peer program she hopes to launch later in the spring, a program focused on the individuals with mental illness themselves, but the 12-week family program is designed for family members, and not those dealing with mental illness.

“We just got two people trained,” she said. “As soon as I get Family-to-Family running, then I will get that up.”

As for those who come out to the Family-to-Family class, Carr-Meinecke said, they will come away with a real education that should help them support their loved ones.

“They are going to get a binder full of information. Each chapter, each week that they come, they will be working on different topics,” she said. “They will come out with the support they need, but mainly the education that will be helpful to them and the whole family I like to say.”

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