Classes support those helping veterans with mental illness

Free classes begin Thursday evening in the Linkletter Room at Olympic Medical Center, 939 Caroline St., in Port Angeles.

PORT ANGELES — A series of classes offered by the National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI) of Clallam County will offer support to the loved ones and caregivers of veterans facing mental illness as well as a safe place to speak to others facing the same challenges, organizers said.

Homefront, offered free, begins with its first meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Linkletter Room at Olympic Medical Center, 939 Caroline St., in Port Angeles.

The course, which will consist of 12 to 20 participants, will meet each Thursday at the same time and place through Nov. 17. The exception will be Oct. 27, which will have to be rescheduled, said Charles Pridgen, a veteran of the Air Force who served as a medic in the early to mid-1970s who is facilitating the class.

Participants are asked to RSVP in advance by calling 360-452-5244.

“We have such a stigma here in Clallam, yet there is such a need,” said Chris Juel, NAMI of Clallam County president.

“I believe we are all aware of the 20 vets a day who kill themselves,” she said, referring to a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The study found that more than 7,400 veterans took their lives in 2014, a number that accounted for 18 percent of suicides in the nation.

“This is one avenue … set up to help our vets’ families, by educating them, supporting them and helping them to advocate for their loved ones,” Juel said.

Pridgen said the course will explore mood swings, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, traumatic brain injury, depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“From there, we demonstrate how these things effect our loved ones and we talk about it,” he said.

“We have interactions with class members on these types of things. We give them a chance to speak and talk about their loved one or the person they are taking care of.”

For more information, call 360-928-0240.

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Features Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at cmcdaniel@peninsuladailynews.com.

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