Dynamic duo shows compassion in a crisis
When a family is in crisis, ready access to support and information, heavily steeped in empathy and understanding, describes what to expect when you engage with NAMI Clackamas — especially if you encounter NAMI Family-to-Family volunteer teachers Elaine Teadke and Cathy Bankson.
Collaboratively, they teach the eight-week class for people who care about someone living with mental health challenges.
"Family-to-Family offers you the chance to be so much more to your loved one… and yourself," says Elaine, who has been volunteering with NAMI Clackamas since 2008. It is her way of "paying it forward."
"When our family was in crisis there was a Family-to-Family class just enrolling," she explains. "Taking that class helped our family so much. I decided to help others as a result and share that seed of hope to as many people as possible."
And share she has, having taught more than a dozen classes, and trained several teachers in her 10 years — including her current co-teacher, Cathy Bankson.
"I love teaching with my former students. Training/mentoring new teachers means more classes and more people getting vital help," Elaine observes.
Cathy came to NAMI Clackamas with a slightly different perspective and experience than Elaine: "As the parent of a child experiencing depression and anxiety throughout most of her life, I did not know where to reach for help. I had not heard of NAMI and its resources."
Once she discovered NAMI Clackamas, Cathy enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to "better equip people with information and resources that I did not have… give them hope."
Cathy is teaching her very first class with Elaine this month. "With our different experiences and backgrounds our diversity can reach a broader audience."
Taking an eight-week class is no small commitment, especially for someone in crisis. So, what can a family member, partner or other loved one expect in return? "A guided experience that includes learning and bonding with others, as well as a forum for sharing your story," advises Cathy.
And what an experience it proves to be! Topics discussed include "How to solve problems and communicate effectively," "Taking care of yourself and managing your stress," "Finding and using local supports and services," "The impact of mental health conditions on the entire family" and so much more.
"I love the light in people's eyes as they grasp and learn new empathy for their loved ones because of the material we present," Elaine observes.
Cathy adds, "Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic altering life as we know it, more individuals and families are feeling isolated, thus exacerbating mental illnesses, which is why NAMI live, online classes and support groups are so important."
Cathy, who also teaches other NAMI classes, and Elaine have impacted hundreds of students, all of whom very quickly made the same discovery.
Almost in unison, both readily describe that light-bulb moment, "It's when you finally realize that you are NOT alone on this journey."
And certainly not when Elaine and Cathy are there!
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