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NAMI to offer workshops on depression

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record Staff

They are waging war in their minds. Struggles with depression and other mental illnesses are ongoing, and there is little help.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. This figure roughly translates to 57.7 million people. Additionally, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada for ages 15-44.

There are sources of counsel and free help available.

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Utah Chapter is offering free classes for those suffering from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder or bipolar disorder at the Episcopalian Church in Park City starting tomorrow and continuing for 10 consecutive Thursdays. Classes will help individuals understand and cope with these issues.

This is the first of what NAMI terms "Bridges" classes to be held in Park City. The course is based on learning about the facts and feelings of those besieged by mental illnesses. The instructors of NAMI are qualified because they’ve been through it.

"With the Bridges program, the neat part about it is our teachers are actually consumers as well. They go through the Bridges course. Once they’ve gone through the programs and they are stable, then they have the opportunity to become a teacher," said Kim Haws, family and child specialist for NAMI Utah. "It’s a really neat classroom because everyone has been through that process, we learn about illnesses from anxiety to schizophrenia and everything in between."

Haws has also been through the programs and is winning the battle.

"It truly saved my life because it gave me the education I needed," Haws said.

Part of the progress people experience in the meetings is the support they receive from similar people.

"It gives you the support from others who also have mental illness, and it also helps to break the stigma of ‘often times you feel like you’re the only one.’ Being able to share your experiences, actually you end up giving to others and they give back," Haws said.

Haws will be co-teaching with new instructor, Park City’s Kathy Martone, who has been involved with NAMI for eight years.

With this program, Martone said people "recover better, they become better adjusted. People owe their recovery to doctors’ expertise and therapists from time to time," she said. "But this class helps people to figure out how to recover."

People can join the class with any array of disorders.

"With each illness you are going to have different symptoms," Haws said. "What they are feeling is hopelessness a deep dark hole, not wanting to get out of bed and crying all the time. There are thoughts of suicide, low self-esteem, change in appetite, bipolar and mania.

"Some people come in for mood disorders, eating disorders, and we help people learn that it’s OK to talk about this. We are such an advocate to break stigmas so they can lead normal happy lives," Haws said.

Various mental illnesses have a broad array of side effects, but Haws said there is usually one constant that inhibits quality of life.

"Mental illnesses totally rip away your self-esteem," Haws said. "You think you can think yourself out of it but you can’t." People who have been through it are surveyed before and after. Almost every survey that I see, it improves self-esteem. Education is the key."

Martone agrees that education is the key for rehabilitation.

"A lot of people are mentally ill," Martone said. "The illness affects behavior, people don’t understand how to deal with it. This course helps people to understand how to rid themselves of those things and reduce the discomfort.

Recovery is possible Martone said.

"There’s a legend that people can’t recover," Martone said. "They are good people and intelligent people, and the mental illnesses do not affect the basic person."

Through the NAMI programs, Haws has seen many people recover and once again have control over their lives.

"It starts to empower them again," Haws said, "and proves they are a worthwhile person. When you see a wilted flower and then you see the nurturing until it starts to bloom again. There are better medications and better treatments now and they are living much happier lives. "Treatment works, recovery is possible, there is hope and you’re not alone."

These programs are not just for those afflicted; it is for friends and families as well. Anyone is invited to these free classes.

"Major depression, it’s like anything, families need just as much support," Haws said. "If you want to come and just listen that is just fine, no questions asked. Sometimes people will come and they might be at a place where they are too sick to really want to come."

Haws continues to work with NAMI because of a love for helping people deal with similar diseases that she overcame.

"It’s not a job," Haws said. "I have the opportunity to see people that are so weak and watch them start blooming again. It’s not about taking the course, when you are connected with NAMI, you’re connected for life, because it is like family."

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Utah Chapter is offering free classes for those suffering from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder or bipolar disorder at the Episcopalian Church in Park City starting tomorrow and continuing for 10 consecutive Thursdays. Classes will help individuals understand and cope with these issues. For more information, call 649-4357 or visit http://www.namiut.org.


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