Support for Families Dealing with Mental Illness

Parent Q&A

  • Support Group for Single Parent with Young Adult Child with Mental Illness

    (5 replies)

    Any recommendations for support group or resources for mom with this situation. I have Kaiser for healthcare which does include some great resources but not for this. This is a long standing issue which I pretty much have handled alone for 15 years but I feel frayed. I support my daughter (financially and otherwise) as much as I can but am feeling like I would like to talk to other parents in the same situation. As my daughter has aged she has become more demanding. 

    Any suggestions appreciated 

    Thank you in advance

    In Oakland but have support group will travel in East Bay

    I also recommend the NAMI meetings in Albany.   They meet on the third Tuesday of the month at 7:00pm in the church at 980 Stannage Avenue, Albany.

    There are also free 12-week "Family to Family" classes that are NAMI sponsored and offered periodically.

    I found these both to be very comforting and they actually helped me keep my sanity through a very difficult time with my son. 

    Stay strong and take things day by day.  It does get better eventually.

    The Ann Martin Center in Emeryville has multiple resources:

    Also, look into Childrens Health Council (CHC), formerly Parents Education Network (PEN):  iinfo [at]

    24-hour crisis lines: 855.278.4204. (Santa Clara) | 650.579.0350 (San Mateo)415.781.0500 (San Francisco) | 800.273.8255 or Text BAY to 741741 (Crisis TextLine)Be sure to try to attend EdRev 2018 on Sat.,April 21 at AT&T Park in SF

    You might try meeting with Family Sanity's group for parents of teens, which is held in a private home and facilitated by a therapist. I've only met the host, Lisa Scimens, once--but she was very welcoming. I have found just being in the presence of other parents who "get it" can be spirit-lifting if the group dynamic is carefully tended. Here is some info about Family Sanity's upcoming meeting in Oakland. All the best to you, Sarah

    Evening Group for Parents with Teens 
    Tu Feb. 27   7:30-9pm
     w/Amy Friedman, LCSW

    (suggested donation of $20)
    Please rsvp to lisascimens [at]

    Hello Missy, In my experience it takes working with heartbreak, shame, confusion, denial, etc  to come to the clarity you have about your child's mental challenges.  As a parent of a child-- now an adult -- with multiple challenges (mental illness being one) I know first hand.   Have you checked out the local NAMI, meetings are in church at Stannage @ Marin (Albany area)?  NAMI = National Alliance for Mental Illness ? They have a group designed specifically for parents (and/or loved ones) of teens and young adults.  From that group more connections/suggestions/referrals are possible.

      BTW: As I was very much about alternative remedies/help for health (and very much against allopathic medicine) I tried to address my son's problems with emphasis on diet, exercise, meditation, etc.  It didn't work.  In fact, he suffered greatly, I saw -- in hindsight.  No doubt it works for some people however, but my son isn't one of them.  ( I am shamed, occasionally, by well-meaning, yet ignorant people who feel they know better....but have never lived with a child like ours).   

       My prayers for you and your daughter in this journey. 

    Can you provide a bit more information on how old is your daughter now?  Does she live with you?  What type of mental illness?  If your child is an adult (over 21) then you do realize that you are not obligated to support her financially anymore?  Is her illness so bad that she cannot hold down a job?  Does she know what a budget is and could she stick with one if you put on such a thing?  Not  judging you.  Sounds like either you, your daughter or both of you could use some mental health care.  You also need support to ensure that you are not going down a rabbit hole.  

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  • Therapist with specialty in clients w/ mentally ill family members

    (4 replies)


    I am looking for a therapist for my sister-in-law (she is not on BPN and has asked for help finding a good match).

    She has been caring for my severely mentally ill brother for several years as his depression has sharply worsened. She has agreed it's necessary to see a therapist of her own because of caregiver burnout. She is a nurse during the day, then caring for my brother and their young child on evenings/weekends. I believe she could use someone with help in boundaries -- in helping her see where her obligations to her husband/son end and her obligations to herself & a happy life begin. This may include the painful exploration of conversation around marital separation.

    Is there a really good therapist anyone could recommend? This is a special person and a really, really difficult situation because of the mental illness context with my brother. Location in Oakland near Piedmont Ave/Macarthur Blvd. would be great. She has Kaiser but if someone really good is out of Kaiser network that is an option too.

    Thank you in advance,

    - Worried sister-in-law

    I would send you to Dr. Lisa Lancaster.  She is fantastic--especially dealing with illness/caregiving and boundaries.  She helped me a lot.  She is in Berkeley/Oakland right near College and Alcatraz.  510-841-2525

    I don't know if the location or insurance is a fit, but I highly recommend Susan Wansing -  510-326-5541. Her specialty is working with caregivers. She has definitely helped promote a better lifestyle for me.

    I recommend she contact NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) and go to some of their support groups for family members.  She will be among other people who are walking the walk and struggling with these issues.  It is a special kind of problem.  Therapists tend to look at the pain of the individual with mental illness, and don't always realize how much agony family members go through as well, trying to find a balance between caring for others and for themselves.

    Good luck to you and yours. 

    Sharon Gregory (on Ashby in Berkeley) has been a great help to me with issues like what you’re describing. 

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • Informal Support for Prodromal families??

    (6 replies)

    dear BPN parents 

    our last 2 years have been very hard. Our  happy, well- adjusted child who grew up in a loving & happy home began experiencing signs of pychosis at age 13. 

    Mental Illness runs in the family on both sides so we immediately sought treatment, found a psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.  

    We've been through DBT, CBT and I reluctantly hand my child a fist full of meds each night.

    We are in the "Prodromal" phase -- no psychotic break or hospitalization yet ... Hoping to avoid that! But still dealing with a suicidal child who has engaged in self harm who hears voices 24/7.

    I've reached out to NAMI & other orgs but really would like to talk w other parents who worry @ their children's life chances due to early onset psychotic features & what we can do to best help our child through this period and prepare for young adulthood 

    thank you

    Very worried mommy 


    idk if this is appropriate and apologize if not. First Hope in (or near) Concord.   I wish you all the best. 

    Hang in there. You are a great Mom and are doing everything right. 

    The PREP program in SF has a lot of experience with early psychosis. They offer a lot of what you are already doing but may be another good resource.

    good luck! 

    Have you heard of PREP? Its an Alameda County funded program for kids who are exactly in this prodromal stage. My son had his first psychotic episode at age 17, probably was having other symptoms earlier that we mistook for behavioral issues. PREP, based in Oakland, took him in as a client. They have therapists, support groups and medical staff who worked with him and helped him manage his symptoms better. The counselor/ therapist, a young friendly student intern, used to come home to Fremont weekly to meet my son and often took him around to the park. Unfortunately, our son had co occuring conditions that required hospitalizations and we had to pull him out of Prep. But for time he was with prep, we felt very supported.

    You can google them up for the contact info. Best Wishes!!

    Hi, I'm a very worried mommy too. My 14 year old son has been in residential treatment for 6 months in Utah after 3 months of 14+ hospitalizations/placements for homicidal/suicidal depression/anxiety w/psychotic features  self-harm hears voices sees violent images etc. I've found a lot of support through Willows in the Wind monthly meetings in Oakland, but feeling like I also need some support on how to survive with a severely emotionally ill child, my own feelings of loss, guilt, frightened, sad, PTSD, how to support my other family members, what the future may look like, how to financially prepare for long term care, etc.

    He safe and alive at his current placement, but has not made any personal progress in learning how to cope with his symptoms. This also makes me very sad and not as hopeful about his future.

    I'm hoping there's some responses.    

    My best wishes to you through this struggle.

    Have you read the new research that indicates that people are actually hearing their own voice?

    There is also information that fish oil is preventative:

    Hope this helps. 

    This free weekly drop-in group in Berkeley offers a good perspective and good company.

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

Support Group for families of depressive spouses

Oct 2011

I am looking for a local support group in the East Bay...particularly Oakland or Berkeley area. I have been to a good one in SF, but it is too far to travel on a regular basis. I am looking to find a group, or even start one myself if there are others on this list who need support as well. If you have a husband or wife who has depression, you know what I am going through. You need a strong support system around you to survive. I haven't been able to find one specific to wives of depressive husbands. Also, one for families with children and one parent who is depressive. trying to find others in the same situation

here's NAMI's website with a list of east bay support groups for families affected by depression/mental illness:

Support group for parents of ED/LD teen

June 2011

Our 13-year-old son has a alphabet soup of afflictions (ADHD, bipolar, OCD, ODD, Tourette syndrome and anxiety disorder). When he was little we read scores of books and attended support groups that helped us develop good techniques for working with him, all of this when we lived outside the Bay Area. The older he gets the more apparent it seems that we need new skills. Can anybody in this dialed-in network suggest either helpful literature or support groups? Many thanks. Anon

I'd be surprised if you aren't already familiar with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), but, just in case you aren't, here are links to the national website as well as the East Bay website. . Best wishes

Support group for depressives and or their spouses

April 2011

I have a 4 month old daughter. My husband has a major, long-term, ''treatment-resistant'' depression. He's tried every medication (the list is something like 30 drugs and combinations) including some MAOI's, one of which helped land him in the ER when I was 9 months pregnant. He has heard from everyone that he should exercise, but won't/isn't able to actually do something about it. Ditto with dietary changes, such as cutting down on the wine, coffee, etc. These things contribute to his being overweight, having sleep problems, snoring. He also suffers from migraines. He's been in therapy with his Psychiatrist but he doesn't seem to think it has done anything to help. Bottom line is he's depressed. Often to the point where he is in bed most of the day. I'm looking for some sort of support group for myself. Does anyone know of such a thing in the Bay Area? coping

Check with the National Alliance For Mental Health. They have s support group for depressives in San Francisco. According to the link there are also affiliates in Oakland and Albany. What is positive about NAMI is that they are a group that encourages both medical and social management of mental illness. It also helps family members reduce their feelings of isolation, and advocates for better medical care and the governmental financial resources necessary to provide that care. anon

Editor note: more responses to this question are here: Husband's debilitating depression

Support groups for people with depressed siblings?

Aug 2010

Hello all, I am wondering if there are any support groups that meet face-to-face for people with severely depressed siblings or other family members. I've found plenty of online support groups but I'd really like to talk to people in person. Therapy is getting pretty darn expensive and I really want to meet other people who can relate to my situation. My little brother (now 25) has been horrifically depressed since he was about 8 years old; we've exhausted all our emotional, financial, and mental resources trying to help him, and now I just really need help myself. Thanks Katie

Hi, There is a website that lists many of the therapy and support groups in the bay area. Take a look and see if there is a group that appeals to you and talk to the group leader. I run a women's group in Lafayette and would be happy to talk to you about other groups I know of. Marie