Thursday August 15, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- The Brattleboro Retreat is going to collaborate with The National Alliance for Mental Illness Vermont to start a program in southern Vermont that allows people who have mental illness to work with others who have similar experiences.

Other NAMI Connection Recovery Support Groups are held all over the country, and there are similar NAMI groups held in Bennington, Burlington, Rutland, Springfield and St. Johnsbury in Vermont.

"We're very excited about partnering with the Brattleboro Retreat," said Wendy Beinner, president of NAMI Vermont. She added, "(We) believe bringing the NAMI connections program onto the unit will help people be more successful, both while they are hospitalized, and later while transitioning back into the community."

The Retreat is currently training members of the support team and the hospital hopes to have the support groups available to patients on the Psychiatric Unit to help in the mental health recovery process, Brattleboro Retreat Director of Social Work Services Gwynn Landow said.

"Something we are trying to do is build in more peer services, and have more peer advocates for the people on the psychiatric unit," Landow said. "NAMI has developed this peer program and by bringing this into the Retreat it gives us more robust offerings in terms of what we can offer to patients."

The NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group brings Retreat patients together with others who have been successfully treated and are coping with their mental illnesses.


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The idea, Landow said, is to get the Retreat patients to feel comfortable talking about their recovery and to develop trust in the people they are working with in the groups.

Trained Retreat staff members sit in on all of the confidential meetings with the patients and their peers.

Landow said the Retreat also wants to start similar groups outside of the Retreat campus to allow former patients to get support during their transition out of the Retreat.

Along with finding peers to talk about their recovery, the support groups are also a good way to share coping strategies, and they provide a venue to share experiences with others who have been through similar challenges.

The Retreat is donating $2,500 to help train facilitators and start the program as soon as possible.

"When patients can connect with a peer it gives them support," Landow said. "It shows them that other people have had the same experience and if those relationships develop they are more likely to continue with support groups as they move back out into the community."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.