NAMI: Loving and Caring for Your Child with a Mental Health Condition

This week we are lucky to have a guest blogger, Lora Illig, Director of Community Relations for NAMI Los Angeles County Council. Thank you Lora for your time and passion.

As a parent of a child with early onset mental illness, I struggled with guilt and shame that somehow I caused the illness or that I was a bad parent.  I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to. I know there are a lot more parents out there with the same struggles.  I have learned so much through my education and support through NAMI Basics and Family to Family education classes, that it has become my passion to help others on the same mission to love and care for their child that is dealing with a mental illness.  Learning about your loved one’s illness helps to build compassion and understanding of their needs and the needs of the entire family. Have you ever asked yourself the following questions about your minor or adult child with a mental health condition?

  • How do I understand my child with a mental health condition?
  • Is it my fault?
  • Is there a way I can communicate effectively with my child?
  • Can I care for myself and the rest of my family, while caring for my child with these challenges?
  • Can I prepare for and respond to crisis situations (self-harm, suicide attempts, etc.)?
  • Is there hope? 

I have asked these questions and have found the hope and support I need through these two of NAMI signature programs.

NAMI The National Alliance on Mental Illness, the largest grassroots organization, is dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by mental health conditions and their families through education classes, support groups and advocacy.

 The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is your bridge to lasting support and resources, in addition to your mental health providers, for your loved one with a mental health condition.  NAMI Basics and NAMI Family-to-Family education classes offer the opportunity for healthier outcomes. See below for the description of these two education programs.

NAMI Basics Education Program isa free, six-session program designed for parents and other family caregivers of children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral difficulties. NAMI Basics helps parents and other family caregivers of children to understand the illnesses that are causing those behavioral difficulties, and the critical role families play in the treatment of those illnesses.

 What people are saying about Basics:  “The course is inclusive of almost all aspects of family and child resources. I could have spent a lifetime getting all this information on my own. I feel supported, strong and ready to go forward.”  “NAMI Basics bridges the gap. It provides help that can’t be found in a doctor’s office.”

NAMI Family-to-Family is a free, 12-session (soon to be 8-session) education program for family, partners, friends and significant others of adults living with mental illness. The course is designed to help all family members understand and support their loved one living with mental illness, while maintaining their own well-being. The course includes information on illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and other mental health conditions. Read more at

What people are saying about Family-to-Family:  Thousands of families describe the program as life changing. The program is taught by trained teachers who are also family members and know what it is like to have a loved one living with mental illness. “The course has helped me to realize that my son is still inside the body that is often times hidden by the mental illness and that I am not alone in this.”

“This course overall was the single most, without a doubt, helpful and informative thing ever offered in all my years searching for answers. It has helped me to understand better and communicate more effectively with my brother.”

                                  There is Hope!     You are not Alone!

Lora Illig, Director of Community Relations for NAMI Los Angeles County Council, has a special passion for bringing awareness of the signs and symptoms of early onset mental illness, and for empowering parents, caregivers, and teachers to become effective advocates for their children and adolescence with mental illness. Her own experience of advocating for her son that was diagnosed with a mental health condition at an early age, has fueled her devotion in her journey.   Lora is a NAMI state trainer and lead presenter for the NAMI Ending the Silence Program (a Mental Health Awareness, Stigma Reduction and Suicide Prevention program) for Students , Teachers, and Parents. She is also a state trainer for Basics Education Programs (6 Week Education class for parents of children aged 3-17 with a diagnosis or symptoms of mental illness).

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