Stella Smith has been president of the Castle Country affiliate of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) for three years now. NAMI Utah's mission is to ensure the dignity and improve the lives of those who live with mental illness and their families through support, education and advocacy.
The Castle Country chapter focuses on B.R.I.D.G.E.S. or building recovery of individual dreams and goals through education and support. Breaking down stereotypes and stigmas to help everyone who has a mental illness or knows someone who does is also a goal. According to the World Health Organization, one in four people will develop one or more mental disorders at some stage of life.
Smith hopes to increase awareness of these issues and break down social barriers. With such a high percentage of people having mental illnesses, it is likely that you know someone who lives with such an illness.
NAMI has been around since 1979 and has organizations in all 50 states. Smith went to a conference when it was held in Price three years ago. They had a support group for families with children, but none for adults. She wants to implement them here to educate adults about these issues. NAMI's main programs are B.R.I.D.G.E.S. and family-to-family, which helps family members. For a full listing of their classes offered and descriptions about each course, their website www.namiut.org is a good tool. The Castle Country chapter has completed three sets of B.R.I.D.G.E.S. and family-to-family classes, which last from 10 to 12 weeks. NAMI held a?luncheon here two years ago. About 50 people attended. In addition to luncheons, they have booths at the county fair, international days and Smith does presentations at Head Start.
Family-to-family and B.R.I.D.G.E.S will start in March and run again in the fall. Pre-registration is required, but all classes are free. Provider education focuses on those in professional fields, such as social workers, DCFS workers, vocation rehabilitation or anyone else in that area. Normally, these programs cost thousands of dollars, but NAMI has a grant to conduct the classes. A minimum of 20 people need to register to satisfy the grant. People from everywhere can attend.
Consumers are the people living with the illness. Connection classes are held to give adults with mental illness of any diagnosis a way to get support. No registration is needed for these classes. Smith is the family-to-family class teacher, and she sees people come away from the experience with a new perspective. She mentioned that it's important to understand that you are not alone and other people feel the same things. Mental illness is a physical problem. It is just as real as broken bones or diabetes, she noted.
On Feb. 23, there will be a luncheon at the Active Re-Entry building. RSVP is required for the function, and lunch will be provided. Ron Bruno from CIT (Crises Intervention Team), which is a special training for law enforcement officers to gain knowledge on how to handle someone with a mental illness, will speak at the event. CIT is nationwide and Carbon County is the next target for training. Mental health court will also be represented. The court is similar to drug courts, as it allows alternatives to jail time for those who have mental illness. Smith wants the way people with mental illness are treated in the court system to change and the mental health court is a positive program working towards that goal.
Drug use, which affects people from all walks of life, impacts those with mental illness, too. Often, drug use is a symptom of mental illness; those suffering self- medicate in an attempt to deal with their problems instead of going to a doctor to address the problem.
Smith is hoping to start the family support program soon, which is geared towards consumers. For any other information regarding NAMI or their offered services, contact Stella Smith at 435-637-1371.