Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness with Education Robin Isenberg spreads

. January 27, 2014.

Robin Isenberg, Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Toledo, would like to educate all community members about mental illness. 

“There is a stigma about mental illness and those who live with it, and that keeps us from understanding the prevalence of mental illness and the possibility of treating it,” she said. “Mental illness is a disorder that involves an imbalance in the brain. It’s not something anyone chooses, but we often treat the mentally ill as if they are bad. We wouldn’t do that to people who have other imbalances—like diabetes, for example. We shouldn’t do that to those with mental illness.”

Her group, part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is a significant resource in this area for families who want to help and understand their loved ones struggling with depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, and behavior oppositional disorder, as well as other diagnoses. NAMI Toledo offers free classes with practical information about mental illness for those who need to know.

Classes to teach understanding

The Basic Class is geared toward parents or caregivers. The topics of the six-week course cover  the ABC’s of mental illness, including medication, and the concept of providing self-empowerment. It is taught by parents who have family members with mental illness. The Family-to-Family class is a forum for any and all family members, including grandparents, siblings, and children of mentally ill parents, who want to help their loved ones.

NAMI of Greater Toledo also offers support groups, recognizing the help family members can give each other. There is a specific support group for those 18-25 living with a mental illness. The African American Initiative Support group provides help for African American adults with a mental illness, and their family and friends. Ayuda (“Help”) is a group for Hispanics, and NAMI connection Recovery Support group is for adults with a mental illness, regardless of their diagnosis. These groups  are led by individuals with personal experience.

Isenberg notes, “We help each other by sharing our experiences and our feelings. We gain confidence in dealing with our family members’ mental illness and learn how to help them, too.”

She invites calls about the classes and support groups at NAMI of Greater Toledo at 419-243-1119, or on their website, or at their office at 2753 West Central Avenue, Toledo.