Local NAMI chapter a great resource

Mental illness, causing varying degrees of functional impairment, affects about 20 percent of the population. That means right here in Washington County, approximately 10,000 adults are dealing with that challenge. A local organization, recognizing the need to support those folks, is going through a reboot.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is resuming scheduled meetings this month. It is an important resource for those who may be feeling all alone in their struggle.

“There’s a stigma involved, and people don’t want to admit they’re mentally ill,” said Brett Nicholas, co-organizer of the revived Washington County NAMI chapter.

Perhaps that is why the format for NAMI’s meetings can be so effective. In the Connection meetings, which begin Feb. 7, facilitators provide structure to a relaxed environment in which participants can discuss their conditions. Importantly, however, “You have to have experienced mental illness to become a facilitator,” Nicholas said.

The Family-to-Family educational program begins Feb. 26, to help people understand and support their loved ones with mental illness, learn coping skills and become advocates for themselves and their loved ones. Those facilitators must also have direct experience with the challenges families face.

It is a shame the stigma against which these folks struggle has not been erased. But it is good to know the local NAMI chapter is doing something to create another layer of support.