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NAMI nears begininng in Castle Country region

Jody Anuskewic-Manzanares goes over some paperwork following a counseling session. She will now double as a NAMI ally along with working as a full time counselor at vocational rehabilitation.

Sun Advocate community editor

Community members Brenda Pappas, Stella and Kevin Smith and counselors at vocational rehabilitation including Jody AnuskewicManzanares and Mindy Jepson are helping to bring aid to the mentally challenged in Castle Valley. Along with many others, the group is working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to bring the federal program's benefits closer to home.

NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

Through a step down program, NAMI takes federal resources and moves them to the state level, then gets them to the families that need help most via local affiliates. They provide assistance "to insure the dignity and improve the lives of those affected by mental illness and their families through education, support and advocacy," states NAMI literature.

According to the alliance, mental illness is often an isolating experience, accompanied by profound anxiety.

For the patient who is diagnosed with illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or other condition, talking with someone to share coping strategies and insights as well as problems and concerns can be an important link in the path to recovery, according to NAMI.

To help cope, Pappas stated that in September the local NAMI group will be starting the Bridges program. Bridges is a 10-week course for those living with mental illness. Classes cover brain biology, symptoms, treatment options, communication, building support, crisis planning and recovery. This course is taught by trained individuals who can speak from personal experience.

"We are so excited about this program," said Pappas. "This is something a lot of people have been working toward for a long time."

For those family members dealing with the new or ongoing issues that can arise from a loved one with mental illness problems, the alliance will be starting the Family to Family program.

A 12 week course, the Family to Family class covers symptoms, medications, coping skills, recovery, advocacy and much more, according to NAMI literature.

Classes are offered in English and Spanish statewide, a capacity local affiliates are also hoping to develop.

"We are still looking for a facility to host our classes but are set on starting things up in September," said Pappas.

While there are many programs offered through NAMI, the last one mentioned by Pappas was the Hope for Tomorrow program which provides an education program offered to elementary and secondary schools with components for students, teachers and parents. The goals are to raise awareness of mental illness, erase stigma and foster hope.

"The Hope for Tomorrow class can be used to incorporate teachers as allies in the program. They can then help us with recognition of early onset mental illness in children and adolescents," explained Pappas.

When dealing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD this program can be very important. ADHD is a condition that becomes apparent in some children in the preschool and early school years.

It is hard for these kids to control their behavior, play with other children or just concentrate at times.

It is estimated that between three and five percent of children have ADHD, that adds up to about 2 million total kids in the United States, according to NAMI data.

"A child with ADHD faces difficult, but not insurmountable tasks," explains the alliance. "Tasks that are made easier to handle with early intervention."

For those seeking further information about the program, please contact Pappas at 650-0216, Stella Smith at 637-1371 or vocational rehabilitation at 636-2820.

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