Family members frequently are the major providers of support
and care for persons with mental illness. Relatives often provide housing, financial aid, companionship, and emotional support. They also seek out and secure the mental health and social services their ill
relatives need. Being a primary caregiver, however, can be emotionally, physically, and financially overwhelming for families. Many families shoulder their caregiving responsibilities with little
knowledge about the causes of mental illness, how these illnesses are treated, or where to go for help. The stigma attached to mental illness often leads to feelings of guilt and shame, which in turn makes
families reluctant to share their experiences with friends and can also prevent families from finding the resources they need. Moreover, a history of family-blaming and parental scapegoating by mental health
service providers has made some families feel alienated from professional assistance.
Education on the etiology of mental illness, the standard
methods used to treat mental illness, and skills training on managing the day-to-day problems related to mental illness have been found to be beneficial to families. Similarly, support groups offer families
the opportunity to gather together to share their common experiences, decrease their feelings of isolation, and exchange information about local treatment resources. Research at the MHSRP addresses how
education and support programs help families of persons with mental illness. The Journey of Hope Family Education Course Outcomes Project examines the effectiveness of a family-led education program in improving
families' ability to cope with their relatives' mental illness. The Journey of Hope Program Evaluation explored the benefits of a family-led education course and support group program. The Church-Based Family Support Groups project is studying how support groups held at churches may help African American families cope with their relatives' mental illness. The Family Coping and Resiliency Project explores ways that parents of adult mental health consumers deal with their relative's mental illness.