By Bob Nassauer
Every Saturday afternoon at Chelsea Hospital In-Patient Unit and every third Monday afternoon at Michigan Medicine In-Patient Unit (9C), something very meaningful occurs: Volunteers from our affiliate—a representative who lives with mental illness and a representative who lives in support of a family member with mental illness—present the NAMI Washtenaw Patient and Family Hour.
The purpose of this presentation is to provide help and hope to patients and their loved ones. Appreciation for what we are doing is shared among patients, families, the hospital staff and the people from NAMI Washtenaw who give the presentation. As one of the presenters, I find it humbling and fulfilling to spend time with people who are in crisis and looking to improve their lives.
Coordinated by Pat Root, our vice president, we spend a little time telling about our mission (education, support and advocacy) and our stories. Then we give more details about the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) and Family-to-Family (F2F) education classes, our Ending the Silence program, our support groups and the local advocacy efforts of the Mental Health Matters committee. We spend much of the time responding to questions and listening to patient and family stories.
The overall tone is positive and we encourage participants to continue working with their treatment team and support group toward better health. We emphasize the importance of learning and describing their symptoms and striving to figure out a “multiple menu” of what works for them, such as meds, talk therapy, exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, coping skills and relapse prevention. Finally, we acknowledge to participants that becoming more healthy can take time and effort so it is important to be patient and kind to one’s self.
Some of the volunteers from our affiliate participating are Pat Root, Melissa Burkel, Darlene Wetzel, Alex Engleberg, Sara Wesser, Patricia Doyle, Barb Higman, Contessa Fincher and Bob Nassauer (apologies to those not listed). Hospital staff members in attendance are highly supportive (e.g., they often make insightful comments and they make copies of our handouts to help us save on costs).
All involved agree that being with patients and loved ones, sharing our stories and providing helpful resources is a powerful and meaningful experience. And it has been a good way to get the word out about our mission and recruit attendees for P2P, F2F and support groups. Sometimes when our session is done there is applause.