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.
Seven and a half years ago, Jackie Mashore was the one searching for guidance when she found the class.
“Initially, I found the class to be a little frightening. I remember feeling a heavy burden as I came to terms with serious mental illness. As the class progressed, I began to realize we all have our burden, our story. By the time the class was over we were all friends. I now had a nice network of people, and it left me with a feeling of, oh, I’m not alone,” she said.
The evidence-based class covers communication skills, problem solving, the stages of recovery and the stages of emotional response. There is also current information on the brain, mood and thought disorders, treatments and medications.
“I needed to know when to set limits and when to stay out of the way,” she said.
“Because of the insight that I have gained in the class, I understand where my son is in his recovery which gives me patience. It helps me understand what I need to do to properly support him.”
Matt Mashore said his mothers’ education helped the whole family deal with a difficult situation.
After his psychiatric crisis, with good support systems in place, he earned a master’s degree. Since then, he has maintained good health and independence.
Today, Matt Mashore works in the mental health field. Like his mom, he has a desire to help others adjust to living with a mental illness.
“I have found that one of the strongest predictors in a client’s recovery is how involved and how well-informed their family members are,” he said.
“It’s not enough to simply love a person with mental illness. It takes a great deal of knowledge about the person’s illness in order to give them the best care they need.”
• Meets for 12 sessions, 2.5 hours each, free of cost.
• Designed for loved ones (over age 18) of individuals living with a mental illness.
• Taught by trained family members of individuals living with a mental illness.
• Provides critical information and strategies related to caregiving.
• Incorporates presentations, discussion and exercises.
Classes around the metro begin the first week of September. To register for the free class call NAMI Edmond North-OKC at 405-408-0886.
Jean Williams is a NewsOK Contributor and a volunteer with the Edmond North-OKC National Alliance on Mental Illness. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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