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NAMI offers hope for children with mental illness


ADHD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, oppositional defiance disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder can all be scary words to a parent when they hear them. A parent can feel overwhelmed and alone, not knowing how or where to find help for their child.

About 106,000 youth in Oregon (about 12 percent) have a serious emotional disturbance and thousands of youth are placed each year in child welfare or juvenile justice systems due to unmet intensive mental health needs. Additionally, suicide is a leading cause of death for Oregon’s youth ages 10 to 24.

NAMI Basics course offers help and hope for those families. Taught by Chris Ommert and Faith Gilstrap, local parents who have been there, students learn that recovery is a journey and that there is hope for children with brain disorders.

One graduate said, “This class was unexpectedly wonderful. I did not expect to learn so very, very much. It covers so much more than basics that the title doesn’t do it justice.”

Ommert has an adult daughter with schizo-effective disorder who started displaying signs of anxiety at age 2 and started hearing voices at 12. She is doing well, managing her illness, and recently got married to the man of her dreams.

Gilstrap, an Oregon City resident, has four children. Her oldest daughter suffers from bipolar and borderline personality disorders. A son has Asperger’s syndrome, and another has ADHD. Gilstrap became involved with NAMI in an effort to help other families who have someone suffering from mental illness. She said, “Others shouldn’t have to blaze their own trail through this journey as I’ve done.”

Both of these mothers will tell you treatment works. Success rates with adequate treatment for mental health disorders are 60 percent to 80 percent.

NAMI Basics is a free six-week course for parents and other caregivers of children and adolescents living with a mental illness. They do not need to be diagnosed. The lessons provide learning and practical insight for families. Course elements include:

1. The trauma of mental illness for the child and family.

2. The biology of mental illness: getting an accurate diagnosis.

3. The latest research on the medical aspects of the illness and advances in treatment.

4. An overview of treatment options — treatment works.

5. The impact of a child’s mental illness on the rest of the family, caregivers and siblings.

6. An overview of the systems involved in caring for children and teens and the importance of recordkeeping.

NAMI Basics classes will run in Oregon City on Wednesday evenings from Jan. 8 through Feb. 12. There is no cost. You can register by calling 503-344-5050 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..