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Peer-to-Peer Program
The free, 10-week course for adults with mental illness will take place from 9:30-11:30 a.m. on Tuesdays at Plymouth Congregational Church, 501 W. Berry St.
For more information, call Michael O’Neil at 260-432-9909 or Kathleen Bayes at 260-483-6308

For brain health

New year’s resolutions for many have to do with getting organized or losing weight, but for those coping with mental illness, it could mean a commitment to recovery. That’s where one of the community’s best resources – the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness – can help.

NAMI-Fort Wayne is offering a 10-week recovery education program specifically for adults with mental illness. Michael O’Neil, who recently underwent training as an instructor for the unique Peer-to-Peer Education Program, said more participants are needed for the course to begin as scheduled next Tuesday. NAMI Indiana will provide the course materials only if there are enough participants, because the course is built on sharing experiences with others working to recover from mental illness.

“Most people who need the course aren’t ready to admit it,” O’Neil said. “That’s why there’s a great need, but not a great demand.”

NAMI-Fort Wayne also offers family-to-family classes designed for family and friends of those suffering from serious mental illness, including schizophrenia, depression, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Participation has been increasing in the programs, which all are offered at no cost.

O’Neil, who has a rare type of bipolar disorder in which antidepressant medications actually trigger episodes, is determined to make the Peer-to-Peer program available here. The local organization has struggled to find peer instructors for the course. O’Neil said his participation in the most recent NAMI national conference and his preparation for the peer course have supported his own recovery, reinforcing the knowledge that mental illness is a brain disorder.

“To know that can help people accept their illness and start recovery,” he said, “The people who accept they have a problem are not a problem. It’s the people who won’t accept it who cause a problem for others.”

The tragic shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school last month cast renewed attention on mental health issues. Michael Fitzpatrick, the executive director for NAMI, urged President Obama in a letter to improve access to mental health care, including efforts to increase early identification and intervention, to train family and community members to respond to youth and adults in crisis, to support school-based mental health services and to fully implement provisions of the Affordable Care Act covering mental health and addictions requirements.

Fort Wayne is fortunate to have a strong foundation for those services and more through the local NAMI chapter, the Carriage House and a network of experienced professional providers. If recovery is the goal, the help is there.