Mental Illness support group reaches out to families - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Mental Illness support group reaches out to families

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Buddy Weir knows the struggles of mental illness.

"It can be anybody and affect any family."

His daughter suffers from schizophrenia. Weir said it began in college.

Drastic mood changes, poor decisions, lack of focus, and then self-medicating with alcohol.  All classic symptoms of mental illness Weir said he did not see in the beginning.

"When we started seeing difficulties, that's what happens with most families, it's a shock," said Weir. "It's like finding a mole. You don't know it's cancerous until you have it checked out."

She was misdiagnosed at first.  Once Weir accepted the disorder, he said his family was determined not to fight alone.

They found help from mental health organizations like NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"Information is power," he said.

NAMI is a resource for families who need medical services and support for loved ones diagnosed with schizophrenia, depression, bipolar, ptsd, anxiety and borderline personality disorder.

Weir said not enough families look for the help they need.

"There's an absence and a great need and a lot of people are falling through the cracks," he said.

According to NAMI, fewer than one-third of adults and half of children with a mental disorder get help.

Weir, a former president of the local NAMI chapter, said access to treatment and the perceived shame of mental illness can get in the way. He hoped his story will inspire families living behind the stigma to step forward.

"It's nothing to be ashamed of," he said. "You need to treat it like it is an illness, because it is an illness."

And you don't have to treat it alone. The Mid-Carolina chapter of NAMI is hosting a free panel discussion Tuesday.

The panel will include health professionals and families affected by mental illness. They will talk about how they cope with mental health disorders.

It's at 6:00 p.m. at Trenholm Rd. Methodist Church on Trenholm Rd. in Columbia.

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