Family mental health group helps people find support

Sunday, April 7, 2019 - 13:57
  • Star file photo/Matt Tunseth

Supporting a loved one dealing with mental health issues can be lonely labor. But it doesn’t have to be.

“That’s a huge thing to realize you’re not alone,” said Kathy Burek Huntington, an Eagle River woman who helps facilitate a National Alliance of Mental Illness family support group that meets twice a month at Community Covenant Church in Eagle River.

Huntington said the purpose of the support group is for people to share their stories, discuss treatments and support methods and simply commune with other people experiencing similar circumstances.

“There’s other people that are dealing with these issues,” she said.

The Eagle River group has been meeting for about six months; it meets the second and fourth Saturday of each month from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the church, which is located at 16123 Artillery Road.

Huntington said the group is run by NAMI-trained facilitators who are versed in guidelines for how to help people share their stories. The facilitators are not mental health professionals, she said, but simply there to help guide the discussions.

“It’s tremendously helpful to know you are not alone and be able to talk in an open and confidential way,” Huntington wrote in an email.

The group is always looking for members and Huntington said anyone is welcome. She said it’s often helpful for people who have family members dealing with mental health issues to speak to others who have had to negotiate similar challenges related to everything from courts to doctors.

“When you’re dealing with a mental health issue you have to be kind of an expert just to advocate for people,” she said.

NAMI operates several family support and mental health recovery groups in the Anchorage area. The group has a complete list of meetings and other mental health resources on its website,

Huntington said the groups can be an important outlet for people who may feel they have nowhere else to turn.

“It just helps to talk,” she said.

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