Family-to-Family courses address mental illness |

Family-to-Family courses address mental illness

One in four Americans suffer from mental illness on a daily basis.

In Utah, more than 20 percent of the population has been diagnosed with some form of mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), said outreach specialist Mary Burchette.

This is why NAMI offers free family-to-family courses in Utah from Ogden to St. George.

NAMI is a grassroots organization that started in Utah in 1979 that offers free education classes and support groups for individuals living with mental illness as well as their family members.

"All of the classes are taught and facilitated by individuals with a lived experience of mental illness," Burchette told The Park Record. "We’re not psychiatrists or social workers. We’re comprised of family members of those who have mental illness."

On April 24, NAMI will begin a 12-week Family-to-Family course at South Summit High School in Kamas.

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The classes will be held once a week through July 10, and will feature a different course topic each week.

The topics will include:

  • Learning the signs, symptoms and emotional stages of mental illness
  • Schizophrenia, major depression and mania
  • Subtypes of depression, bipolar, panic disorder and obsessive/compulsive disorder
  • The biology of the brain and new research
  • Problem solving
  • Medication review
  • Empathy workshop
  • Communication skills
  • Self-care and relative-group experiences
  • Recovery
  • Advocacy

    In order to receive a certificate of completion, participants need to attend all 12 courses, Burchette said.

    "These sessions are here to support those who are going through a difficult time and will show them some resources," she said. "We will talk about the current information that is out there regarding mental illness. We will talk about medicines and their side effects. And we talk about the research and how to gain an understanding of loved ones and problem solving."

    The sessions will also provide an opportunity for people to share their experiences and to hear others’ experiences.

    "We have had many who have completed the course tell us how helpful the classes were and how important it was for the relationship in the family," Burchette said. "Others have told us that they wished they could have attended these classes years ago when their loved ones were diagnosed with mental illnesses."

    Throughout the centuries, the stigma of mental illness has been riddled with misconceptions and has, in the past few years, become a barrier for treatment, Burchette said.

    "A lot of the media have been able to perpetuate that stigma by talking about it in a negative light by using words like crazy or psychotic, but in reality, it’s not unlike those other illnesses and we need to talk about those issues," she said. "NAMI sees mental illness as a biological brain disorder and, much like taking insulin for diabetes, medicines need to be taken for things such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. We need to make it easier for people who suffer to get treatment."

    Family-to-Family, a 12-week course, presented by NAMI will begin Thursday, April 24, and ends Thursday, July 10. Sessions run from 6 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at South Summit High School, 45 S. 300 East, in Kamas. To register, contact Lana by email at or by calling 435-640-8306 after 4 p.m. For more information about NAMI, visit