Mental Illnesses

A New Family-to-Family Teacher’s Perspective

Teaching Family-to-Family in Northern Virginia for the first time in Fall 2003 helped me as well as the students. As a NAMI National employee in the NAMI Education, Training and Peer Support Center I wanted to learn as much as possible about the program. In this way I would be able to help my peers with their work. I realized the best way to learn the program was to teach it. I knew I needed to be familiar with each chapter to effectively teach. This process succeeded since I now am much more familiar with the contents of the teacher manual.

The bonding that took place during this class was amazing. Everybody seemed interested in helping each other. It was very empowering to see this happen. Also it was satisfying to see the level of interest in the material. My students seemed to like the role- plays in the Communications class best. I am more technically inclined. Therefore the chapters on the illnesses and the brain interested me most.

By virtue of one of my sister’s mental illness I qualify as a family member. However, I am also a consumer. Therefore I had experience with many of the situations presented by the class members from both vantage points. My consumer perspective helped me to establish more of a rapport with the students. I was also able to take a family member’s role because of my sister. Both my sister and I are committed to adhering to our treatment regimens. Fortunately, I acquired experience with issues of nonadherehce because of my work on the NAMI Helpline. Thus I think I was able to help people in the class with problems they had with relatives who refused medications and treatments.

My advice to new teachers is to read the chapters several times before teaching its contents. The more you read the material the more confident one becomes. I would also advise talking with an experienced instructor to see how they would teach a particular item. In my case, I had the most experienced teacher in the U.S., Joyce Burland, Ph.D., who wrote the curriculum for Family-to-Family. Finally if you are intimidated by the thought of teaching, remember 4,000 other teachers felt that way too.

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