Tel: 973-509-9777

Mental Health Association of Essex County, Inc.

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IFSS Family Support Groups


The MHAEC implements three separate ongoing professionally facilitated bi-weekly support groups for families who have an adult loved one with mental illness. The dates and locations of these groups are listed in the Calendar section of this website.

When a family member is confronted with mental illness, the impact on all other members of the family can be devastating. While many services and treatments are designed to engage and treat the family member with the illness, often little attention is paid to the needs of other family members or primary caregivers.

Ongoing IFSS Support Groups are designed to enable families confronted with a mental health or behavioral crisis, to continue to function as intact, cohesive family units, meeting the needs of all family members. When families are able to connect to other family members, and are educated on the symptoms, causes, treatments, medications, community resources, and available entitlements, they feel more empowered to help their loved one. They are also in a better position to utilize effective limit setting and problem-solving skills to reduce potential conflicts and crises.

The goals of such a family caregiver support group are as follows:

  • To improve the coping skills of group members while also helping to relieve some of the emotional burden that comes with their caring for a loved one with mental illness.
  • To increase the group members' knowledge of symptoms, etiology and treatment of mental illness, while heightening their awareness of community resources.
  • To reduce family members' sense of isolation through the supportive connections made from their support group involvement.

As families come together in a support group, they connect and identify with each other and feel that the group truly understands what they are going through. This helps to provide them with a sense of validation, and a feeling of being both connected to and supported by each other. As is often the case when families are struggling to cope with difficult family problems, sharing with others who truly understand their experience provides them with a sense of relief and comfort.

When families learn about mental health resources and strategies to navigate the mental health system, they feel more empowered and become more effective advocates for their ill family member. When families increase their understanding of mental illness, they are better able to communicate with their loved ones, helping to foster and enhance treatment and medication compliance while reducing interpersonal conflict and stress within the family.

Utilizing a relaxed, informal non-judgmental, open approach, families can come together in a group for mutual support. They can freely share their own personal experiences, validate their sense of burden and reduce their overall level of stress.


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