Support Groups Helping Families Deal with Mental Illness

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- 1 in 5 Americans has dealt with some sort of mental illness, and nearly 11 million Americans suffer from severe mental disorders each year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Now, a local non-profit is helping families cope through support groups.

Psychologists say there's a lack of help for treating mental health disorders in the Stateline due to many professionals moving away or retiring. The National Alliance on Mental Illness,or NAMI, is helping families who are having a hard time getting treatment for their mentally ill loved ones form support groups.

"I found out about NAMI from a flyer at a doctor's office. I went to the support group and it was life changing because I had nobody to talk to about the problem," says Sandy Simon, whose son has a mental illness.

Ten years ago, Sandy Simon's son David was in a car crash, which caused a frontal lobe injury to his brain and later triggered schizophrenia. Simon turned to NAMI to cope with her son's impairment. The non-profit is about giving families the guidance and support they need to overcome the issues they face dealing with these disabilities.

"A lifesaver for myself and my family. Other people don't really know what's going on, so it's a place where we can share stories and there's free educational groups," says Simon.

"Very often during our Family to Family twelve week course, along the way a couple, one of them will say you know our daughter is so much better than she used to be, and I just don't understand it because things are going so much better at home" says Robin Garvey, President of NAMI.

Garvey says they have four different support groups that meet once or twice a month. She says everyone is welcome to join NAMI, and there isn't a single person or disorder they turn away.

NAMI costs $35 a year to join. Families dealing with financial hardships only have to pay $3 a year. For information on support groups, log onto

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