Floyd Lee and Amy Ownsby are recent acquaintances. But already they are making a lifetime of difference in people’s lives as co-leaders of a new education program in Spokane.
The Journey of Hope is a two-part course for relatives of people suffering from brain disorders, the new favored term for mental illness. One in four people will have some form of mental illness or emotional problem in their lifetime, said Terri Anne Fredette, Community Relations coordinator at Spokane Mental Health.
Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression are the three most common disorders nationwide and the focuses of the course. The Journey of Hope program begins with a 12-week class; upon completion, participants form a support group and continue to meet.
It was designed to provide family members with facts about brain disorders, as well as to help them understand what their relatives are feeling. Each week an important topic is covered, ranging from basics of the brain and overviews of the three disorders, to communication, problem-solving and empathy workshops.
During class, participants receive handouts and readings on each topic. By the end of the session, students will have compiled a 300-page notebook to keep. Two of the 20 class participants are trained as facilitators for the ongoing support group.
Another topic covered in the class is advocacy for people with a mental illness. The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) is on a five-year campaign to reduce the stigma attached to the phrase “mental illness.” They now refer to their group as The Family Organization for People with Brain Disorders. Brain disorders are biologically based, making the term more appropriate than mental illness, NAMI leaders say.
The Journey of Hope is a national program; it debuted in 1992. It is self-selective. In other words, you don’t have to take the course in order to participate in the support group. Since both offerings are free, though, families are encouraged to take advantage of both.
Family members need to educate themselves and take charge, Lee said. If a relative is going to get better, the family must be involved. As caretakers, family members need to understand the emotions of the ill relative and develop the skills to handle trying situations.
“People just really need to know we are here to help relatives understand what’s going on,” Ownsby said. “And that it will be OK,” said Lee.
The next class is set for February. For more information, call The Spokane Alliance for the Mentally Ill (SAMI) at 838-5155.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: Created in support of the Spokane County Health Improvement Partnership (HIP), Discoveries highlights people working to improve community health and well-being. If you have a discovery that deserves recognition, call 742-3660. Or visit their Web site at www.hipspokane.org.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.