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Portage County parent starts local monthly support group for families and caregivers who have a child with mental illness

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Portage County – Is this really the “terrible twos”, threes and fours or is it something more? Is this behavior normal preteen rebellion? Why won’t any of the “advice” work with my child? What am I supposed to do now that the problems are serious?

If this sounds familiar, Carrie Martin of Kent understands and knows what it is like to love a child with a mental illness.  Her love and determination to support her child has motivated her to establish the NAMI Basics Support Group in Portage County.

The Basics Support Group is for the parents, grandparents and caregivers of children who have been diagnosed with or shown symptoms of mental illness prior to the age of 13. The group meets on the first Wednesday of the month,  7 p.m., at the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County, 155 E. Main St., Kent. The next meeting is Sept. 3.

There is no cost to join the group which is sponsored by NAMI Portage County, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“For me and many others, there was no ‘normal’.  Or if you were lucky, and there was for awhile, then, something changed overnight.  The problems were really something more.  Unfortunately, at the time, there was no one for me to turn to: family, friends or religious leaders.

“They couldn’t help me any more than all the advice books could. They didn’t know what to tell me or their advice was often critical. Then you begin to doubt yourself,” Martin remembered.

A board member for the local NAMI chapter, Martin is encouraged that today more people understand that mental illnesses can have biological causes. It is more acceptable to acknowledge the problem and seek help, for both the child and parents.

Martin has received training through NAMI Ohio. She plans to eventually offer  the Basics Education Program classes in Portage County. Developed by NAMI, the six-week class provides information concerning various diagnoses, what is actually happening in young brains, resources and coping skills.  Martin encourages parents and others who care for a youth with mental illness to start attending the support group now.

“It is an opportunity for parents and caregivers to be heard and acknowledged by others who have experienced the same things, create friendships and maybe even get a little advice. We’re not doctors but we know what you’re going through and how you feel,” Martin said.

Martin joined NAMI about 6 years ago and has benefitted from the support she receives through the monthly chapter meetings, which are the second and fourth Thursdays, 7 p.m., also at the Mental Health & Recovery Board in Kent. The meetings are free and open.

“Today, there is help. There is hope. Mental illness and disability have come out of the shadows. It is more acceptable to acknowledge the problem and seek help, for both the child and the parents,” Martin emphasized.

For more information, call the Mental Health & Recovery Board at 330-673-1756. Learn more about NAMI Portage County at www.namiportagecounty.org.

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