Workshops will help families cope with mental illness


It's hard enough to get along with people with "normal" emotions, let alone those with mental illnesses that make feelings intense, unpredictable, and volatile.

Having a family member with bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, or major depression can feel like being trapped on an emotional roller coaster, said Edie Mannion, director and cofounder of the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania's Training and Education Center.

She helped develop a class for family members who want to get off the carnival ride. Beginning this month, it will be offered in Philadelphia, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.

The workshop is meant to help families and friends understand mental illnesses better, even if their loved ones have yet to admit they have a problem. Families will learn how to control their own emotions and avoid behavior that can turn a rough day into a meltdown.

People with the illnesses crave understanding, Mannion said. "The families often don't appreciate the level of pain that these disorders can cause, so they might make well-intentioned attempts to give advice or solve problems," she said. Things can escalate quickly as everyone feels misunderstood.

The key, Mannion said, is for family members to "try to understand and talk to" their loved one's emotions rather than reacting to their own.

Guest speakers include people in recovery from mental illness. "I think it breeds hope," Mannion said.

The 10-week class, Getting off the Emotional Roller Coaster, is free for Philadelphians; it costs $300 for people in the suburbs.

The Philadelphia workshop will meet at the Belmont Center for Comprehensive Treatment on Wednesday evenings beginning March 26.

Delaware County classes will start n March 13. Montgomery County classes will be held on Thursday evenings in Plymouth Meeting starting April 10.

To register, contact Mary Catherine Lowery at 267-507-3865 or

Retrieved from: on 3/10/2014