If you’re a parent or caregiver of a child struggling with their mental health, there’s a program to help. It’s free to access and it provides support and resources to help navigate best ways to help children with mental health issues.
The National Alliance for Mental Illness is a nonprofit advocating for and supporting individuals and families impacted by mental illness, and its Utah chapter is putting on a virtual program beginning in September which, according to NAMI Basic Trainer Jenny Kirkman, gives families tools to help raise children with cognitive and mental conditions.
“First of all, they offer a great education to anyone in the community about what mental health conditions are,” Kirkman said. “So basically, just an overall education about different diagnoses and how to get help. And second, they offer a great support system. When you go in there you just feel like you're with other people who are dealing with the same thing, so you have a great support. And I think probably most important, you're taught how to advocate for your own children, whether it's going through the mental health system in the medical field, especially at school, just how to advocate for your children and how to teach those around you about what that is and what your child is struggling with. It gives you a voice in that.”
Kirkman says when her daughter was 15, she began to show signs of a mental health condition. Kirkman found the program so helpful, she decided to take the teacher training so she could teach the basics course.
“I went (to a NAMI support group for families) and I just felt extremely supported in that support group,” she said. “So, I took the basics class with my husband. … I learned things I had never heard before. I didn't know how to access information. And, when I went there to the class, I just felt like I could do it. I began to learn how to advocate for my child who was going through difficult things in school.”
The program will be offered live in virtual sessions and participants can share in their experiences during the six-class series. The classes can also be accessed on-demand as schedules allow. Register at NAMI Utah's website.