RIDGEFIELD, Conn. -- Unless you have a loved one with a mental illness or addiction it may be hard to empathize with how the family copes.
It is the premise for an array of programs the National Alliance on Mental Illness Southwest Connecticut, two of which will be held at Jesse Lee Church in Ridgefield.
A monthly support group and course called Family to Family is set to begin in February and is offered exclusively to the family members.
Claudia DeVita, Vice President of Southwest NAMI who also facilitates support groups and co-teaches the local course said she gained "strength and knowledge" from becoming a NAMI member when her two sons, now in recovery, "struggled with mental illness."
"It can make a huge difference," she told Daily Voice in a phone interview.
"For the past seven or eight years, NAMI mentored me, educated me, and supported me to a stable place. You're in a room among people who walk the same walk. They are not alone. You are not alone."
"I wouldn't be walking and talking now without NAMI," she plainly added.
Marc Rabinowitz, father of someone with a mental illness, is co-teaching the class, the second time it's been offered in Ridgefield.
Rabinowitz also facilitates the support group that meets second on Thursdays and is free and open to any family member.
Either of the programs are highly beneficial and help enormously, he said in an interview.
"It normalizes what you're feeling," he said. Participants are able to talk openly about their personal circumstances and contribute to the overall experience.
"It enriches the program. Everyone has their own story. There are different needs among families and definitely a need for this in Ridgefield and the surrounding communities," Rubinowitz said.
The class set to begin Feb. 16 has 10 signed up. Similarly, Rubinowitz said, when he began the support group, "I was trying to get a roomful and 20 showed up the first time."
"They come from Wilton, New Canaan, all the surrounding towns," he said.
"Serious mental illness is one of the best-kept secrets. Nobody talks about it. But if you don't know anybody with a mental illness, that's abnormal. It's no different than if it were cancer. The only way to reduce the stigma is to talk about it."
The National Alliance of Mental NAMI Family-to-Family Program is a free, 12-session education program for family, partners, friends and significant others of adults living with mental illness.
The class will be held Thursdays from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Jesse Lee Memorial United Church (Carriage House building).
The course is led by supporting family members and friends living with mental illness.
The course is designed to help all family members understand and support their loved one living with mental illness, while maintaining their own well-being.
There will be information about illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and other mental health conditions.
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
For more information, or to register for the Ridgefield Family to Family course or attend the bi-monthly support group, (meets 6:30-8 p.m.), contact Marc at 203-940-2516 or email@example.com . Pre-registration is required.The class, which holds 20, already has 10 participants.
Click here for information about NAMI Southwest Connecticut and to register for any of the free programs and support groups.