Support Groups Available For Family & Friends Of People With Mental Illness

pamphlet for mental health course

The NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program offers resources and support for family and friends of people with mental illness. The course is available in 49 states in the U.S. and is listed in the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.

Christine Herman/Illinois Public Media

Mental illness affects more than the afflicted individual – it impacts their relatives and friends, too. An education program starting this month focuses on equipping those people with the knowledge and support they need to help their loved ones.

The Champaign chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, will host the free 12-week “family-to-family” course.

Nancy Carter, the chapter’s co-president, said the stigma surrounding mental illness makes many people unaware of where to turn for help.

“We're like where cancer used to be years ago, no one talks about it,” Carter said. “Nobody brings a casserole over to your house because your son or daughter has a mental illness. They just go, ‘Oh, well we won't talk about that.’ The problem is, if you don't talk about it, you won't know what resources are available.”

Course participants will discuss the impact of mental illness on the entire family and learn about evidence-based therapies and local resources. The class will also provide instruction on how to manage mental health crises and support loved ones with compassion.

Lyndon Goodly is one of the course’s facilitators. Three years ago, when his daughter developed bipolar disorder in her twenties, he didn’t know where to turn.

“As parents, you feel like you want to protect your child, you feel like that’s your job, that’s your role,” Goodly said. “And then you’re suddenly faced with something where, you can’t fix it.”

He got plugged into NAMI Champaign, where he took the "Family-to-Family course" and learned that his daughter’s illness was not his fault and help is available.

“It’s such a relief to know there are other out there who can connect with you,” Goodly said.

Carter said anyone interested in signing up for the course can contact her directly at 217-356-1925 or by email at

The class meets on Tuesdays from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Colony West Clubhouse in Champaign, beginning on September 11.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman

Story source: WILL