August 19, 2014 | by Darcy Blake | What if Parkinson’s Disease had a national educational outreach program like NAMI? The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) focuses on mental Illness, including schizophrenia, biopolar disorder (manic depression), major depression, anxiety and panic disorders, borderline personality, obsessive-compulsive and post-traumatic stress disorders. Some of these illnesses, schizophrenia, for example, have a dopamine problem that is opposite of Parkinson’s Disease, too much dopamine, while PD has too little.
Both Parkinson’s Disease organizations and NAMI are dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals and their families through support, education, and advocacy. The difference is that at NAMI, family education is not unsystematic. It is a standardized, national program that allows you and your family members to complete a thorough training period with a hands-on understanding of the needs of the consumer (NAMI’s word for the person with the mental illness) and the family.
Mental illnesses are brain disorders that are biologically based medical problems. Untreated, they can cause severe disturbances in thinking, feeling and relating. This results in a substantially diminished capacity for dealing with the ordinary demands of life. Similar to Parkinson’s Disease, mental illness can affect persons of any age and occur in any family.
NAMI does an important job of setting out basic information so that the individuals and their families can maintain dignity in their lives. Some of their education programs include:
- The Family to Family Education Program (a free 12-week course offered by trained family member volunteers. The program is open to parents, spouses, siblings, and adult children of persons with mental illness.
- The Peer to Peer Program (a free 9-week program for persons with mental illness.)
- The Provider Education Program (offered to individuals who provide behavioral health services to people with mental illness.)
- In Our Own Voice: Living with Mental Illness (A recover education presentation given by trained consumer presenters to groups of consumers, family members, community groups, college and professionals.)
By the time a family completes The Family to Family Education Program, they have a support group (their classmates) and an educated understanding of their situation.
Organizations such as Parkinson’s Institute, National Parkinson Foundation, Davis Finney Foundation, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, APDA (American Parkinson Disease Association), Michael J Fox Foundation, and others offer valuable seminars, support groups, online research and individual workshops that are helpful for Parkinson’s Disease caregivers who do their research, but there isn’t a one-on-one educational outreach class with national coverage that “accompanies” the diagnosis the way that NAMI does.
There is so much sound advice to offer to potential caregivers and families. For any of the brain illnesses, compassionate direction and inclusion is what is needed and that includes families as well as consumers.
About Parkinson’s Women Support
The mission of Parkinson’s Women Support is to offer moral support, encouragement and camaraderie for women who are either Parkinson’s Disease patients or caregivers. Check out our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/parkinsonswomen