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NAMI Blog: Peer Education and Support Empowers Caregivers, Inspires Mental Health Advocates


In the newest NAMI Blog entry, Joyce Burland, director of the NAMI Education, Training & Peer Support Center, reflects on the growth of NAMI’s Family-to-Family program and how such programs play a critical role in supporting families during a time when states mental health budgets are in jeopardy nationwide.

Family-to-Family is a free, 12-week educational course led by trained family members who are experienced in caring for a loved one with a serious mental illness such as major depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Program participants receive current information on serious mental illness, learn about proven treatments, develop problem-solving skills and communication techniques and explore local community services and supports.

“The families we teach need help they cannot find from community clinics and providers working overtime to manage funding cutbacks further shredding the safety net which now exists,” Burland writes.

“This is where the ‘personal gets political,’ for we cannot avoid coming clean with the families we teach that the services they require are services they often can’t get, and to secure them we must still fight for them. That’s the reason why NAMI members advocate: That’s why we’re always fighting in state legislatures not to cut funding. We know squeaky wheels get the grease and so we encourage people to squeak.”

The impact of Family-to-Family courses is far-reaching, among families, friends and communities. Burland notes, “We aren’t just teaching the people in the room—they, in turn, are reaching out to the rest of the family.”

Each year, NAMI offers approximately 800 Family-to-Family classes in 49 states. The class is offered in both English and Spanish.

About NAMI
NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI has over 1100 state and local affiliates that engage in research, education, support and advocacy.


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