Re: Seeking advice re mentally ill community member
From: Fred H Olson (
Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2007 08:21:25 -0700 (PDT)
eileen mccourt <emccourt [at] CHARTER.NET>
is the author of the message below.
It was posted by Fred the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]>
after deleting much quoted material.
--------------------  FORWARDED MESSAGE FOLLOWS --------------------
Hello Diane and all,

I am a Family to Family facilitator with the National Alliance for the
Mentally Ill (NAMI).  The Family to Family course is an intensive 12 week
program of education for family members who have a loved one with mental
illness.  Mental illness is particularly heartbreaking because there is a
social stigma attached to mental illness, and because so many people who
have mental illnesses do not accept that they have a problem, and may be
unwilling or unable to tolerate the side effects of their medication.

The first thing the Family to Family course teaches parents and children of
those with mental illness is to establish boundaries and to take care of
themselves.  Of course, this is difficult for a parent to do, and I believe
your neighbor's mother is probably distancing herself out of desperation.
In any case, as you are finding out, accepting your neighbor's unruly and
erratic behavior is not going to make it better, and she can only find out
for herself and make her own decision to take her meds, or get whatever is
needed - there are resources for those who are ready to accept them.

In some ways, a relationship with a mentally ill person is like a
relationship with a substance abuser (and I have been there with both).  You
can see all the potential, and the pain, and want to support the good in
that person.  But until you can "detach with love" as they say in the 12
Step program, nothing can change.

Please recommend NAMI to the mother of this woman if you have a chance.  The
healing that happens for the relatives can often lead to more healing for
their mentally ill loved one.  The Family to Family course is a powerful
force of healing, especially for those who are just coming to terms with
mental illness in their family (and you would be amazed how prevalent this
experience is in our society).

Eileen McCourt
Oak Creek Commons Cohousing

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