Help offered for families of persons living with a mental illness

One in five adults experience mental illness every year in this country, with one in 20 experiencing serious mental illness every year. The numbers are just as startling for adolescents too, with one in six youth aged 6-17 experiencing a mental health disorder each year. In order to raise public awareness, stop stigmas, and advocate for better health, the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) is the country’s largest grassroots mental health organization. 

The Midland affiliate of NAMI has opened registration for their free Family-to-Family program this fall. The eight-week long, evidence-based course is designed for family, significant others, friends, and caregivers of people living with a mental illness. The program has been serving the Midland community since the fall of 2016, and is supported this year by Blessed Sacrament’s Christian Service Funding Committee.

The Family-to-Family program begins Tuesday, Sept. 19, and meets every Tuesday through Nov. 14, minus the night of Halloween. Meetings take place at the Community Mental Health for Central Michigan Midland office at 218 Fast Ice Drive  from 6:15 to 8:45 p.m.
Dan Corbat
Dan Corbat is a volunteer coordinator for the Family-to-Family program for the Midland NAMI affiliate. Corbat was introduced to the program when his son started experiencing mental illness symptoms. “We really didn’t know what to do, we didn’t know where to go, we didn’t understand what mental illness really was,” Corbat says of his and his wife, Pam. “It was not something that we had any exposure to or experience with. The Family-to-Family program really helps with that.”

The program helps educate participants on causes of mental illness, coping skills and strategies, medication, therapy, and treatment methods, empathy skills, and more. “We really learned how to better manage this with our son,” Corbat says. “Not to say that it is going to create a cure, but it really does help us focus more on him, and the illness. Now we can support him, and lead him to a better life.”

Corbat says this course (designated for 18+) helps provide ‘hope to the hopeless,’ and helps create a community of folks together over two months. Each week, different modules are covered, followed by practical exercises, a guest speaker, and time for participants to individually share their stories. This is the first in-person class since COVID, and the class typically has about 16-18 people. 

The program made a big impact on Corbat and his family, and continues to be a positive light for others in the community, too. “It’s a very worthwhile program for anyone who has family members or loved ones with mental illness, and they want to learn more about it,” he says. “What we learned out of this program is that this isn’t anything that our loved ones chose. This isn’t something they could avoid, and we really need to empathize with them, be patient, and understand that this is like any other kind of illness. As hard as it is to accept, there really is no cure, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope, and that people can’t live relatively normal lives. There is hope.”

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Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at