Study Underscores Importance of Support for Caregivers of Mentally

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

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • W. Coleman

    W. Coleman

    July 6th, 2011 at 8:14 PM

    That’s wonderful news that FTF is deployed all over the country! Caregivers of the mentally ill are this country’s forgotten heroes and from what I hear it’s no better abroad. I’m very glad to hear about this program. Thanks for highlighting that.

  • Trev Walker

    Trev Walker

    July 6th, 2011 at 8:43 PM

    It would have been helpful to include a link to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) as they are the driving force behind this FTF program. You can find more information on the program and most importantly how to find a course in your area by visiting their website and searching “Family-to-Family”.

  • Patrice


    July 6th, 2011 at 10:58 PM

    Knowledge is power and it is no different here. It sure must feel like a morale boost to know you’re not alone in your journey of care taking.

  • benny


    July 7th, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    BTDT for many years and trust me no matter how much you love the person,no matter how close you are to the person,you do feel demoralized and helpless at times.its not a great feeling but finding support for yourself and interacting with others who can help you sure is a great way to deal with such feelings that can bring you down.

  • hailey


    July 7th, 2011 at 11:29 PM

    the morale in caretakers would remain high if there is provers being made if you ask me. but when there is no recovery or if the the disorder is said to be incurable ten the morale will surely dip down.

  • corrinne


    July 8th, 2011 at 4:31 AM

    is this ftf program pretty readily available in different parts of the country? i have never heard of that but my mom cares for a brother of mine who is mentally ill. she has never been able to put him in a home which would probably be the ebst situation but she can’t bring herself to do it. she has aides that come to her house and help with the lifting, bathing etc but nothing to help her out emotionally which is a big part of what she needs! i would love to know how to find out if this is something that i could help her get involved in in our area.

  • Angelica Lyons

    Angelica Lyons

    July 9th, 2011 at 10:42 PM

    @corrinne: As Trev had commented above, if you go to their website you can find out whether it is available locally. Just Google the organization’s name, National Alliance on Mental Illness, then use the Search box at the top right of their homepage. Put in the phrase “Family-to-Family” including the dashes and it’s the top result. I hope you find help for your mom.

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