Dick: Advocacy Through NAMI

When asked about suggestions for others who support a sibling living with bipolar disorder, Dick emphatically recommends attending a NAMI class.

You have to go to NAMI class. That’s it. Go to NAMI class and then we’ll talk. But that’s where you start. It’s a no brainer. . .When I teach the NAMI classes, I feel good about helping people and I’ve gotten some very positive feedback from a handful of people. They’ll come up and say, thank you, you do a very good job.

Dick explained that he experiences “instant empathy” when people attending the NAMI classes share their stories. He emphasized the importance of all family members getting educated about mental illness, so they are not saying different things to their loved one. He said, “It’s very important that the family has a united front.” If family members cannot commit to the Family to Family class, which is now 8 sessions, he recommends taking the one-time, six-hour Hope for Recovery class NAMI offers. Dick also tells family members that if they seek help from a professional because of concerns about the loved one, they should tell their loved one what they are doing to avoid an angry response from their relative.

Note: Hope for Recovery is a six-hour workshop for family and friends of adults or teens living with mental illness provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The workshop provides information about mental illness, treatment, resources, and practical strategies for improving communication.

Dick emphasized the importance of “stigma busting.” He acknowledged, “It’s so painful, nobody wants to talk about it.” Dick’s recommendation is to talk about it. When friends ask family members, what can they do to help, Dick makes this suggestion.

If your son’s in the hospital with a broken leg they might bring over a casserole. Nobody brings a casserole to somebody who’s mentally ill. But if they ask you what they can do for you or if you’re bold enough, you can tell them what they can do for you. Tell them to go take Hope for Recovery. I want you to get educated so I can talk to you when I need to.

In spite of his coping strategy of not thinking about it, Dick views his experience in supporting his brother from a realistic and honest perspective. While acknowledging his own painful experiences from the past, Dick uses his experiential expertise to benefit others through his educational and advocacy activities with NAMI.


Back to Home