If you don’t think you will ever have a family member with a mental illness, Kara Clark of Sioux Falls, mother of three children, has a personal story to share with you!

Kara is a volunteer with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

“I have three children and two of my children have a mental illness. As a parent I wanted to further educate myself about mental illness. That’s why I decided to get connected with that group to have a better understanding of how I could best help my children.”

Kara shares her personal journey with mental illness.

“My oldest child at times has some really deep depression as well as struggling with alcoholism. I also have my middle son. He can have days when he is angry and despondent and restless. I had a hard time knowing as a parent how I would deal with these situations.”

That’s when NAMI provided Kara with support!

“First I took a 12 week program through NAMI. It was an educational program that provided more information about different types of mental illnesses as well as strategies for taking care of the people that I love! It also helped me realize I wasn’t alone.”

Kara says NAMI has made her a better parent.

“I think I had a much better understanding. I see them as individuals---not the illness. It’s put a different perspective for me on things by meeting other people. I realized I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t me that I had bad parenting skills or having naughty kids. They have a brain disorder and the chemicals in their brains are not allowing them to do the things that they need to do. We have learned different coping skills. They have to take some medications and participate in different services.”

Instead of withdrawing from mental illness, Kara embraced NAMI and what she can do to help others.

“The group has helped me to reach out to others. The first and third Sunday of each month I lead a support group. What I like about that is our positive approach in our support group. It’s just not me talking. The one thing we always end with is---we will never give up hope.”.

Instead of focusing on the negative, Kara works on the solution.

“You know mental illness has been around forever. But I think we are starting to recognize ways in which we can help people. Mental illness is everywhere. Maybe someone struggles with depression or anxiety. We don’t have to hide from that anymore. There doesn’t have to be a stigma around mental illness. Unfortunately, there is. But, it’s gotten better. Some people don’t want to talk about it. I think people feel embarrassed---will I be considered weak if I have a mental illness. No! You’re a strong person for being able to stand up and recognize that. Maybe, you do need extra help or support. That’s all right.”

If you or a family member is dealing with mental illness, Kara offers this hard earned advice.

“Education! I feel education is the biggest key. If you have an understanding then you don’t know how you can help yourself or your children. The other thing is to seek support. You will realize you’re not alone.”

Kara Clark is a real survivor who is definitely making a difference!