Sherry Blinkhorn wants people to know that families matter when it comes to mental illness.
As facilitator for an 11-week session, Blinkhorn is encouraging people who have family members diagnosed with a mental illness to take two hours for themselves to learn coping skills, education and the strategies to help their loved ones.
“The first week is a needs assessment of that group,” she said. “The only requirement is that you know or love someone who has mental illness and it is impacting your life in some way and you are trying to figure out ways to help out that situation whether it is boundary settings, self -care, etc. “
She said the program has certain areas of discussion that need to be addressed, but it’s also shaped around the needs of the people taking part.
“I have been a mental health advocate for 20 some years and we are seeing progress with understanding and education of how mental illness effects everyone,” she said. “There are a lot of people not diagnosed that will suffer in silence and it affects us all.”
Blinkhorn said feedback from previous sessions has been positive and people have formed lifelong friendships that give them support outside of the health care system.
“If we can help people get the help they need before they are in crisis, that is important,” she said. “Some people need support of family and some families don’t know how to support loved ones. We do group work and role playing and we have fun with it. “
She said the techniques discussed in the course are often reviewed so people can see what is working for them and what isn’t. In the end, she said, it is about getting people the help they need before they are in crisis.
Blinkhorn added it is also a good resource for finding out what mental health services are available in the county. She said some people might just need to know they aren’t alone, when they don’t know where to turn.
One former group participant, who we will call Rita, said she would recommend the Family Matters sessions to anyone who has a loved one with mental illness.
“I absolutely loved it,” she said. “It gave me a chance to vent and not be judged. I learned from the group and met fantastic people who were going through similar struggles and that made me feel better.”
The Families Matter in Mental Health sessions begin Thursday, Oct. 25 from 6 to 8 p.m. For confidential registration, contact Sherry Blinkhorn at 902-759-2557 or firstname.lastname@example.org