New information reveals the importance of support for those caring for people with mental health challenges. Family-to-Family (FTF) is a 12 week support program that is available to people throughout the country, sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The program is run by volunteers, and is free to anyone who cares for someone with mental health challenges. To determine its effectiveness at relieving caregiver stress and anxiety in those who care form someone with a mental health challenge, researchers from the University of Maryland studied over 300 caregivers. Half of the group was enrolled in the FTF, while the other group was put on a waiting list, acting as a control group for the study. They were, however, allowed to seek help through other means.
The participants were assessed prior to their enrollment, and again at the conclusion of the program. They were questioned on various topics, including stress level, concerns regarding their loved one and coping mechanisms. They were also questioned about the mental health environment in general, and their feeling of empowerment regarding the obstacles they faced with their loved one and the family as a whole. All of those who participated were also asked questions to determine their level of understanding of mental health illnesses in general.
The results revealed that those in the FTF program knew far more about their loved one’s mental health condition than the control group. This knowledge also armed them with a stronger sense of empowerment and decreased the amount of stress and anxiety they had. The researchers believe that this new study emphasizes the importance of programs like FTF and the positive effects they can have on family members. They add that although more research is needed to gauge what influence this intervention has on the person with the mental health problem, they agree that the family members learn valuable coping mechanisms and are able to successfully “navigate emotional difficulties.”
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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