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When love is not enough, class for caregivers of individuals living with a mental illness helps

Matt Mashore credits his mother and her education for creating an environment that facilitated his recovery from a mental health crisis.
by Jean Williams Modified: August 22, 2014 at 9:51 pm •  Published: August 22, 2014

Matt Mashore credits his mother and her education for creating an environment that facilitated his recovery from a mental health crisis.

His mother, Jackie Mashore, is now a National Alliance on Mental Illness Family to Family instructor who helps family caregivers of individuals living with a serious mental illness.

“I was looking for help because our [adult] son had been unexpectedly diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a severe manic event,” she said.

“I did not know up from down. The class gave me 12 weeks of information that I really needed to get by.”

It’s not unusual for a mental health crisis to come on without warning. Families can often be caught off guard.

They can even go through predictable stages of response. There are three stages: dealing with the catastrophic event, learning to cope and moving into advocacy, according to The National Alliance on Mental Illness.

When dealing with a crisis event such as severe mania, suicidality or an acute psychosis, families can find themselves in shock and chaos. It’s normal to deny the problem. It’s also normal to hope the problem will resolve quickly. But mental illnesses tend to be chronic.

Families find they need ongoing support and empathy. They need help finding resources. And they need to know what to expect.

Because strict privacy laws prohibit sharing information without the consent of the person in crisis, families often find that they are left out of any conversations with mental health service providers.

They scramble to find answers on their own. They want to know how to “fix” the problem. This is where a Family to Family course can help. Family members who have been through a crisis train to lead the class.

“The class is more than presenting the most current information on brain disorders and treatments, you are leading people from a place of confusion and helplessness to a place of being capable and compassionate,” said Jackie Mashore.

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by Jean Williams
NewsOK Contributor
My degree in Psychology did not prepare me to recognize mental illness in my own family. I authored the brochure "What to do in a Mental Health Crisis in Oklahoma County," not because I had the answers, but because I didn't. A wide variety of...
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