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Support groupshelp those withmental illness

Last week I encouraged relatives and friends who have loved ones with mental illness to check out the Family to Family class offered by a local advocacy group.

The response was amazing, according to Linda Davis, vice president of the Manatee County Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The 12-week free course, which will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays beginning March 3 at the Volunteers of America Lifelong Living Center in Bradenton, is almost full.

But Davis had a concern.

She had many calls from individuals with mental illness who were hoping the class was for them.

“The Family to Family course is strictly for relatives and friends who help provide care and support for people with severe brain disorders,” Davis said. “It’s not appropriate for clients suffering from mental illness.”

The problem, says Davis, is the lack of support groups for those who are sick.

“For some reason, we have a hard time getting the word out about the support groups we have,” she told me. “We also need more groups to meet the need.”

Too often the physicians and therapists don’t tell patients or even their families about support groups that might help them, said Davis.

“We really need to get the word out, not only about the support groups, but about our organization,” she said.

She furnished me with the following list of support groups meeting in Manatee County:

n The Depression and Bipolar Disorder Support Group meets 6-7:30 p.m. Thursdays at Manatee Glens Counseling Center, 379 Sixth Ave. W., Bradenton. For information, call 782-4100.

n The Anxiety Support Group meets 9-10:30 a.m. the first and third Saturdays of each month at Manatee Memorial Hospital, Dining Room 2A. For information, call 745-7581.

n Overcoming Anxiety, Depression and Related Changes meets 10-11 a.m. the last Saturday of each month at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, Conference Room 1. For information, call 746-5111, ext. 8152.

n The NAMI Manatee Family Support Group — for family members but not individuals with mental illness — meets at 7 p.m. the second Monday of each month at the Volunteers of America Lifelong Learning Center, 2012 43rd Ave. W., Bradenton.

For more information, call Ann Jerman at 751-3450 or Linda Davis at 778-2095.

Davis or Jerman can answer questions about the Family to Family course as well.

Once again I encourage you to reach out to NAMI. The volunteers who help set up these programs are trained to help. Don’t suffer alone.

Donna Wright, health and social services reporter, can be reached at 745-7049.