IDAHO FALLS — A mental health organization is hoping to help Spanish-speaking parents and caregivers of children with a mental health condition in a way it never has before.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a nationwide organization of advocates providing grassroots community mental health services, according to Laurel Burch, a member of the board of directors for NAMI in Idaho.
Burch said NAMI Idaho received a grant and is using it to offer two free classes in Spanish. One class is called “Bases y Fundamentos” and is for parents and caregivers of kids 13 and younger. The other class, “De Familia a Familia,” is for family members of kids ages 14 and into adulthood.
“We think it’s important for people to have access to coping skills and empowerment resources in their own native language,” Burch told EastIdahoNews.com.
Burch said NAMI Idaho has never been able to offer these classes in Spanish before. The classes will be taught virtually over Zoom, that way anybody in the state of Idaho can participate.
A variety of topics will be discussed, such as the initial evaluation, things people might run into with the medical system, school system and legal and justice issues. Adults will also learn how to develop communication skills with the child, how to develop a crisis and relapse plan and how to deal with suicide prevention.
“This is a major focus,” Burch said about suicide prevention. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is now the eighth leading cause of death among children aged 5 to 11.”
Burch added that 1/3 of the children who died by suicide in the past decade had a mental health diagnosis.
“That’s terrifying when you hear the statistic, but rather than getting frightened and overwhelmed by something like that, we should be encouraged to understand the resources all around us available for preventing an outcome like that,” she explained. “The truth is, there’s plenty of hope.”
The classes — taught by trained parents — are designed to change parents’ mindsets and provide a support system that helps them realize their child’s mental illness diagnosis doesn’t need to be a “burden” but a “mission.”
“(They’ll) develop strategies for self-care and hope on the horizon,” she noted. “They know yes, it’s going to be a rocky road but they’re prepared and their perspective has shifted.”
Burch said it’s important parents and caregivers understand that mental health conditions are no one’s fault. They are biological diseases. She knows people come into the classes full of guilt and shame, but she wants them to realize that NAMI feels passionate about breaking the mental illness stigma.
“Once you get that out of the way, then you’re ready to get down to the business of wellness,” Burch mentioned.
She said humans are designed to function in groups, and she encourages people to sign up for the classes in groups such as sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and grandparents.
“Children who have a broad base of supportive well-informed adults in their life are going to be more likely to be resilient in the face of these difficult diagnoses,” Burch said.
The “De Familia a Familia” class begins May 11 and takes place every Wednesday until July 27. It runs from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. MST.
The “Bases y Fundamentos” class starts June 4 and is held every Saturday until July 16. The class is from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. MST.
To register for the classes, email Burch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about upcoming Nami Idaho events, including classes in English, click here.