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Online workshop teaches how to help mentally ill

A free online workshop Saturday will teach people how to help those who are suffering from mental illness and resisting treatment. stock photo
National Alliance on Mental Illness Southern Oregon brings free training to community

A free online workshop will teach how to help mentally ill people who don’t think they are ill and resist treatment.

The workshop is for anyone who comes into contact with mentally ill people, ranging from family and friends to librarians and police officers, said Andra Hollenbeck, steering committee chairperson for National Alliance on Mental Illness Southern Oregon.

NAMI Southern Oregon is will offer the Listen-Empathize-Agree-Partner, or LEAP, workshop from 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, via Zoom.

Some people with mental illness also suffer from anosognosia. Essentially, they are unaware of their mental health condition and unable to accept it. Their brain can’t process the fact that their thoughts and moods don’t reflect reality.

Anosognosia is a major reason why people with mental illness resist treatment, Hollenbeck said.

Another reason is the stigma associated with mental illness, she said.

“Nobody wants to be classified as mentally ill. There’s this natural resistance,” Hollenbeck said.

Some people have types of mental illness that bring delusions and hallucinations.

“The types of things that they perceive as reality, the rest of us don’t see as reality. But to them, it’s as real as the fingers on our hand are to us,” Hollenbeck said.

People often use the wrong approach when trying to help someone experiencing mental illness.

“They try to do some convincing. They try to argue or debate or use evidentiary approaches. They forget to listen,” she said. “Sometimes the things that people with mental illness say are so outside the norm, that we get defensive and argumentative. We want to say, ‘No, that’s not true. No one is out to get you.’ Whatever the delusion is, we try to argue them out of the delusion.”

The LEAP approach teaches people to listen and understand the emotions underlying the mentally ill person’s statements, such as fear, anxiety and frustration, Hollenbeck said.

“They might be really scared or feeling betrayed by their brain and what’s going on. There’s all kinds of emotions. So the first thing is you really listening for what the person is experiencing — and accept what the person is experiencing as valid and their reality,” she said. “The next thing is to really empathize with that and really try to understand how it must feel to be thinking and believing that that’s how the world is.”

The workshop will teach people how to partner and build a more trusting relationship with the person who is suffering.

“You really have to say, ‘I’m on your side. What would be something that would make things better for you? What’s a goal for you? What do you need?’ You keep partnering with them in a way that builds an alliance with them,” Hollenbeck said.

The LEAP workshop is based on the book “I’m Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help” by Dr. Xavier Amador, a clinical psychologist. The workshop will be facilitated by author and wellness expert Bob Krulish.

To register, send an email with the subject line “Please Register” with your name and email address to info@namisouthernoregon.org. You will receive a confirmation of your reservation and a link to the workshop within 72 hours. If the workshop reaches capacity, you will be placed on a waiting list.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.