News Article Details

Mental illness support group reaches out to families

Star - 10/8/2018

Oct. 08--Donna Matthews saw a bright future for her son, Christopher, but things changed drastically for her family. At 17, Christopher was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

"He was on A/B honor roll. We had such high hopes from him," she said.

Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic mental health condition characterized primarily by symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and symptoms of a mood disorder, such as mania and depression. Christopher had violent outbursts and soon started having hallucinations.

"It's like walking on eggshells. You never know the right things to say because he's very moody, and he gets very lonely," she said.

It took them three different facilities before they figured out what Christopher had.

"They would keep him a week, and he just never could level out," Matthews said. "We took him to Broughton (Hospital), and I know you hear bad things about the place, but they really helped him out."

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults in the United States experiences a mental illness.

"People need to understand this can happen to anyone," Matthews said.

The person diagnosed with the mental illness is not the only one affected.

"When it first happens, you are embarrassed to talk about it," she said. "But it doesn't just affect him."

In 2008, she discovered the National Alliance on Mental Illness South Mountains Support Group. It centers around families with members suffering from mental illness.

"I know I'm not alone, and I know I can count on my NAMI family to be there, good or bad, they are all in," Matthews said.

Currently, the group meets in Forest City, but they are looking to expand its reach to others.

This group will meet on alternate Tuesdays beginning Oct. 9, at Kind Coffee located at 105 S. Main St., Boiling Springs. It is open to anyone with family members suffering from mental illness or addiction.

"We are here for anyone that needs help," Donna said.

Joyce Orlando can be reached at 704-669-3341 or find her on Twitter @Star_J_Orlando.

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(c)2018 The Star (Shelby, N.C.)

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