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Mentally ill will teach peers to cope

Dave Moller

Melissa Blackwell has learned to live with her depression, thanks to classes last fall that taught her how to deal with it.

Now others who want to do the same can, in a new round of classes starting Feb. 9.

Nevada County’s chapter of The National Alliance on Mental Illness will be holding a nine-week, two-hours-per-week session “for anyone with a mental illness or psychiatric challenge, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.,” said Scottie Hart, local NAMI board member.

“The most exciting thing about the program is it’s led by people who have mental illness and are well along in their recovery who have been trained to teach it to others with mental illness,” Hart said. “There’s just magic that happens when one person who has been there and back shares with a person who’s also on the road to recovery.”

For Blackwell, an employee at the FREED Center for Independent Living in Grass Valley, the classes made a huge difference.

“Just to know that other people have had the same kind of experiences that I experienced was great,” Blackwell said. “I found out I’m not the only one that has a panic attack or anxiety about going out in public.

“It’s important for people in the community to understand that people with psychiatric disabilities can be high-functioning individuals. They can drive, hold jobs and go to the grocery store.”

Those interested in the classes should call Hart at 272-5022 for an advance application and questionnaire, “so that we’ll know them and they get to know us” prior to the class. Hart, who will teach the class with two other recovering people, said applicants will be asked if they are seeing a psychiatrist and if they are comfortable in groups, among other questions.

The location of the course will only be revealed to those who get in so that the integrity of the program is maintained, Hart said.

“You don’t need a referral from a professional, although we welcome them,” Hart said. “We want 12 to 15 people, and it usually fills up in the last week,” prior to starting.

The NAMI Peer-to-Peer Education Course will deal with stigma, various disorders, emotions, addictions, relationships and other topics. Students will develop a relapse prevention plan during the course.

“It’s appropriate,” Hart said, “for people in any stage of recovery.”


To contact staff member Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

To get into the class, call Scottie Hart at 272-5022. Classes start Thursday and will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. for nine straight Thursdays thereafter. The location will be given to those who will be in the class.

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