Organization Spotlight: National Alliance on Mental Illness

The Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park Township (CMHB) provides funds annually to 20+ organizations for behavioral health and developmental disabilities services.  Services are for residents of all ages and range from prevention and education to aftercare and supports.  One of the organizations that we support is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Metro Suburban). For more information about the CMHB and our partner organizations, please visit:

Are you my Family?

Family are the people we live life with. They are the people we share with – all the triumphs and vulnerabilities of being human, and doing it together. Sometimes they are the people we share genes with, but sometimes not. They are the people you have consistent connections to, and while those connections may involve shifting boundaries, varying amounts of closeness or distance in terms of both physical and emotional space, they don’t entirely disappear. They persist, in one form or another, through even the most painful circumstances. Family isn’t always a word that brings comfort. For many, it could be the source of pain. But family is also something that is better felt than defined. The people you live these moments with can be related by biology, by public commitments, or just by the accumulation of shared experiences over time. But whoever they are, they are very important to our experience of being human, and of course, to the well-being of our minds and emotions.

NAMI Metro Suburban was founded by 5 mothers of adult children with mental illness. This close relationship with loved ones provided a window into the needs that weren’t being met other places—needs for socialization, for support from peers, for the sense that they aren’t alone in the day-to-day challenges of recovery. It’s no coincidence that most of our members and staff refer to our “NAMI family”. These mothers, and anyone who loves someone with a mental illness, demonstrate the power of a network of support. And it’s not just those with a diagnosis who need this support.

Family members, partners, and friends are often the ones who witness the severity of day-to-day symptoms, and the pain experienced when a loved one is struggling to get the right treatment or support. Often loved ones are present from the onset of the first symptoms. They may see the effects of self-doubt, or stigma, and may experience these effects themselves. They often provide support through the hurdles—both logistical and emotional—many face on their way to getting treatment. They can be some of the strongest advocates for those living with mental health conditions.

Yet, these relationships are complicated, too. For many folks, their symptoms or coping mechanisms can put strain on close relationships. Choosing to be present for someone you love who is in pain, and is sometimes causing you pain as well, is an incredibly difficult task, and one that doesn’t have a set timeline. Recovery is a lifelong process for all involved, not just the individual with a diagnosis. And furthermore, many families have a history of similar diagnoses, which can add layers of strained relationships or painful memories on top of a desire to stand by a loved one who is struggling.

All this demonstrates why we are so grateful to our partners at the Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park Township, for helping us offer support for families, friends, and other loved ones of those with a mental health diagnosis. It’s impossible to overestimate the value of the support these loved ones provide in the day-to-day tasks of recovery, and it’s essential to recognize the importance of their mental health as well. Families, friends, and caregivers, too, deserve to know that they aren’t alone.

This fall, NAMI Metro Suburban will be offering several free support resources for families and other caregivers, thanks to support from the Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park Township. All our family programs are facilitated by individuals who have personal experience as a loved one or caregiver to someone with a mental illness.

Family Support Group is an ongoing group offered twice a month on a drop-in basis—no registration is required. This group exists as a space for families and other caregivers to provide support for one another, and to share advice, solidarity, and understanding among others who are supporting a loved one through a mental health struggle. It is held the first and third Tuesday evenings of each month from 7:00-8:30pm on the third floor of the Scoville Building, at the intersection of Oak Park Ave. and Lake St.

Family-to-Family is a 12-week course offered 1-2 times a year. It is one of several evidence-based programs offered by NAMI—studies show it has a consistently positive impact on participants’ lives. Yet, it’s just as much the support from other family members in similar situations, as it is the facts and information shared in the class that makes such a significant difference. During the course, Family-to-Family provides up-to-date information on the most common diagnoses, tools to advocate for a loved one through treatment, strategies for self-care as a caregiver, and crucially, opportunities to connect over shared experiences. Participants often say that this course turned them into lifelong NAMI supporters. We look forward to offering it again beginning Tuesday, September 24th, and running through Tuesday, December 10th.  Registration is live at

Basics is a 6-week course, also offered 1-2 times a year. This class addresses the specific challenges faced by parents with a child under 20 years of age who is navigating a recent mental health diagnosis. Basics is similar to Family-to-Family in its aims to equip parents with tools to advocate for their child as they navigate seeking support in the mental healthcare and school system, as well as strategies to care for themselves and their families as they face some of the common challenges that come with a new mental health diagnosis. Basics, too, offers the chance to connect with other parents and caregivers who face similar situations, and offer mutual support. We look forward to offering Basics this fall beginning Monday, October 7th, and running through Monday, November 18th (Skipping October 14th for Columbus Day). Registration is live at

Any questions about family programs can be directed to our Education Program Manager, Caitlin Berg, at or (708) 524-2582 ext. 101, or our Education Coordinator, Ellie Borgstrom, at or (708) 524-2582 ext. 103.