When Mechanicsburg resident Karla Smith found herself dealing with a mental health condition, she set out in search of a local support group so she could meet with others who could relate to her struggle. Smith ended up finding the help she sought, but she had to leave Champaign County to do so. Now, thanks to her desire to pay it forward, locals dealing with a mental health issue no longer have to leave the county to join a support group.
“I was having a bad bout of depression, so I was looking for a support group nearby that could help,” Smith said. “Champaign County didn’t have one, so I ended up going to Greene County for a support group there through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). After talking to the facilitator there, I decided to take training classes in Akron through NAMI Ohio so I could become a facilitator here.”
At 1 p.m. on Jan. 13 at Recovery Zone, 827 Scioto St. in Urbana, Smith will facilitate the first 90-minute meeting of the Champaign County NAMI Connection, which NAMI defines as “a confidential and safe support group for adults living with mental health conditions.”
Pete Floyd, president of NAMI of Logan/Champaign Counties, said NAMI Connection is a peer-led support group offered free of charge.
“One in six adults struggle with a mental health condition of some degree, so a lot of people need support for mental health issues, which is what NAMI Connection helps to provide,” he said. “There is such a need for peer-led stuff because professional services can be expensive, and less and less people are going into psychiatry.”
Since the support group is a national program offered by NAMI, there is set protocol for how NAMI Connection operates.
“First and foremost, it’s a nonjudgmental, supportive environment in which what is said there stays there,” Floyd said.
Smith added, “The group gives people a chance to get together and help each other out. They understand what each one is going through.”
Both Floyd and Smith noted NAMI Connection is not a counseling service, and no medical advice or prescriptions will be given.
“I’m not a therapist,” Smith said. “I’m a facilitator who has gone through a mental health illness.”
For now, the plan, Smith said, is for the group to meet from 1 to 2:30 p.m. every Wednesday.
“If these afternoon meetings turn out well, we could possibly have a night session for those who work first shift, because I’d like to be available for everyone,” she said.
For more information on NAMI Connection, Smith can be reached at 937-508-5591 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.