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Support group forms in Hastings for those raising children with mental illness

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recently launched a support group in Hastings for people who are raising a child with a mental illness. The peer-led Parent Resource Support Group helps parents meet the challenges of raising a child with a mental illness, learn coping skills and develop problem-solving skills.

Cari Juarez, parent educator at NAMI Minnesota, said that when she started working with NAMI two years ago, there was only one support group in the county, located in Apple Valley.

"I noticed it wasn't really meeting the needs of the entire county," she said.

Juarez wanted to be able to provide support in more than just the Apple Valley area, so she formed another group in Inver Grove Heights and now one in Hastings. Juarez said she knew from working with parents in Hastings that the area can be a difficult one to find support, which is why it was chosen for the third support group.

As a parent of children living with a mental health condition, Juarez said she understands how isolating and exhausting raising a child with those challenges can be. She found the support of NAMI to be helpful. She said she can share her experiences without feeling guilty, ashamed or stigmatized. People at the support group can "talk about what's going on in their life, meet other people and families going through the same things, share resources" and more, she said.

Juarez said two local residents, Beth Paris and Christy Mastin, facilitate the NAMI Support Group in Hastings. Both Paris and Mastin have received specialized training to help them lead the group.

They also both have experience raising a child with a mental illness.

Mastin said she would recommend the support group to anyone who has kids with mental illness.

"I used to spend many days feeling isolated, but this support group has showed me over and over again that I am not alone," Mastin said. "It has validated the feelings I have and shown me that there are others who also feel similar things."

Paris said she wanted to help other parents going through what she had gone through.

"Having a child with mental illness is difficult and parents need to know they're not alone," Paris said.

Each month the group members meet to discuss what is happening in their lives. Paris said they talk about how they can help each other through whatever roadblocks or crisis they may currently be facing. Everything said in the group is 100 percent confidential.

NAMI Minnesota receives funding from the Dakota County Integrated Children's Mental Health and Family Service Collaborative to support the groups in Dakota County. The funding allows the group to offer child care and snacks at the Hastings location each month. The child care is provided by volunteers of NAMI who have all gone through background checks.

The Parent Resource Support Group meets every third Saturday of the month at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, 1450 W. Fourth St., from 9-10:30 a.m. For more information, visit www.namihelps.org.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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