NAMI launches support groups for family members


With the holidays approaching, the end of the year can be a stressful, as well as joyous, time for families with a loved one who is living with a diagnosed or suspected mental health issue.

Typically, the families are left to cope as best they can with the added stress that the holidays can bring someone struggling with a mental health concern. And, this year adds the isolation and social distancing that is part of the pandemic. As a result, the coming holiday season may be even more difficult than usual.

NAMI Four County, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is launching two support groups specifically for family members and friends who have a loved one with a mental illness.

One group will meet virtually the second Wednesday every month from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. using NAMI’s Zoom account. The other meeting will be held in-person on the second Thursday every month from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Montpelier public library, 216 East Main St., Montpelier.

All NAMI support groups and mental health education classes are free, open to the public and led by persons who have a lived experience with mental illness. In this case, all of the facilitators are family members of someone who has a mental health disorder.

Billie Jo (BJ) Horner, NAMI’s program coordinator and one of the co-hosts of the virtual support group, explained, “We understand the challenges. We’ve been there ourselves. When we nod and smile, it’s because we’ve shared the experience or we understand. We have struggled with it too and have been able to get through it.

“We listen. We understand. We are there to offer compassion, support and encouragement. “When appropriate, group members may share their experiences, but we never tell anyone what to do.”

To participate in the virtual support group on Wednesday, Nov. 11, you are asked to register at least 12 hours before the meeting by emailing Horner at BJ@namifourcounty.org or by calling her at 419-906-5569. She will provide those registering with the link to the Zoom support group meeting along with the login and password.

To maintain support group confidentiality, the link will only be given to persons who plan to participate.

Those who prefer to attend the in-person support group meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12 at the Montpelier library also need to register before attending with Wendy Jennings, the facilitator, either by email at Wendy@namifourcounty.org or by phone at 419-551-0654.

For the foreseeable future, only a limited number of participants can attend each in-person meeting in order to maintain physical distancing. Masks must be worn during the meeting, and if anyone forgets to bring a mask, one will be provided.

Information about who to contact for both meetings can be found on the NAMI Four County website: www.namifourcounty.org.

NAMI is the nation’s largest mental health advocacy organization for family, friends and persons with a mental illness. The organization has developed a wide variety of mental health education programs and trains NAMI affiliates to present the curriculum at no cost in their communities. During the pandemic, these NAMI classes in the four county area have been suspended. Once it is safe, the classes will resume.

However, NAMI Four County has sponsored several Mental Health First Aid classes this fall with two more classes scheduled for November and December. Information about those classes and how to sign up is avail