Learning more about mental health: 'It's critical because it's part of the human existence'

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will offer educational classes and support to family members, friends, spouses, or caregivers of people living with mental illness starting next Tuesday.

Each class provides strategies to cope with a loved one's mental health challenges, how to respond to a mental health crisis, as well as communication skills to optimize family interactions.

Laura Bobotas, a volunteer with NAMI, said each instructor has some connection to mental illness and understands the families' needs.

"Your friends quickly drop off," said Bobotas. "Your child can be disruptive or so sullen and depressed that no one can understand it. It is not something that you casually talk about with most people, so you often are faced with all of these challenges. You feel very alone and isolated and helpless and don't know what to do."

Bobotas said it's especially important to change any misconception surrounding mental illness so that more people understand it to hopefully prevent situations like the shooting in Parkland, Fl. that killed 17 people.

"It is so important to treat mental illness early and young and to get rid of the stigma," she said. "That is one of the biggest barriers and one of the things that NAMI is working with nationally to try and get rid of the stigma of mental illness, so that people treat it like any other illness like a broken bone or arm or leg. You need to get help and get treatment and work with it as opposed to something that you do not talk about or that is shameful to have."

Sessions for family and caregivers of children and teens with mental illness will be held on Tuesday evenings starting on Feb. 27 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Baptist Activity Center on 1939 Independence Ave. in Wilmington.

To register for the program contact Laura Bobotas at namibasicilm@gmail.com.

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