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Free courses teach about mental illness

"Beginning in November, special help and training will be available for families of persons diagnosed with serious mental illness. And it's free.The Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Whidbey Island will sponsor a 12-week series of classes starting Wednesday, Nov. 1 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in Coupeville. The classes are part of the Family-to-Family Education Program put together by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.The course will cover information about schizophrenia; mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder and major depression; panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder; coping skills such as handling crisis and relapse; basic information about medications; listening and communication techniques; problem-solving skills; recovery and rehabilitation; and self-care around worry and stress.The course will be taught by NAMI-Whidbey Island volunteers Julie O'Brien and Phoenix Hall-Kurt, both of whom have first-hand experience with the course as well as specialized teacher training. O'Brien said the classes focus on communication within the family and offer specific ways of handling situations. O'Brien is a board member of Community Mental Health Services and has a family member with bipolar disorder. Hall-Kurt has lived with close family member with mental illness for the last five years.The classes are a complete course and attendees are asked to commit to the full series, not just individual classes. The classes are 2 1/2 hours each.My husband and I took this class together and feel it has changed us as a family. Our only regret is that we didn't have this information earlier in our son's struggle with mental illness. Hall-Kurt agrees.After taking this course, I don't feel alone in this anymore. I learned how to deal with situations day to day, instead of always feeling in crisis.Information and registration for the Family-to-Family Education Program is available by calling Julie O'Brien at 579-5744 or Robin Farrand at 1-888-841-2959. "

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