|Dr. Deborah Vick, Psychologist/Local Recovery Coordinator, Hampton VA Medical Center|
The Hampton VA Medical Center in Hampton, Virginia is partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) by hosting a course that provides education to family members of veterans with mental illness.
For Dr. Deborah Vick, a Hampton VA psychologist and local recovery coordinator, there was such a positive response to a previous session that families asked for more. Previous sessions of NAMI-VA “Family to Family Education” have assisted more than 200,000 people across the U.S. The free 12-week course provides family members of veterans with basic information on many mental illnesses.
“The more families can understand about coping with mental illness, the greater the likelihood that they will be able to provide support and even be a resource to helping their family members use mental health services,” said Vick.
The classes will also talk about the unique issues of being a family member of a veteran. Each week concerns discussions about life in military service, with common issues and questions. Working with NAMI has another purpose as well.
“Support is there and they can access this very sturdy network of other family members and experts who can provide both education and support around coping with mental illness,” said Vick.
After the session is over, NAMI provides information to participants about groups in their community. Char Cate, one of the co-teachers of the class and a Veteran, says one of the biggest benefits of the class is the relationships that develop.
“The biggest thing about the class was seeing the interaction between the attendees and the other teacher and myself, said Cate. Now they’ve got somebody they can talk to that understands what they are going through.”
Cate knows the importance of having a network of support. When her daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder more than 10 years ago, she said she didn’t know what to do.
“I finally went from being a victim to being an advocate. So this helps me as much as I am helping the people that come to the classes.”
The partnership between VA and NAMI has been renewed for the next 3 years, which will allow “Family to Family Education” courses to be offered at VA facilities nationwide. Ultimately the partnership will help more veterans and their families connect to the larger community.
By Hillary Green, VA Staff Writer
Mental Health at VA