National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an organization providing education, support and advocacy for individuals and families impacted by mental health conditions, will return to the Santa Maria area following a several-year absence.

“We are pleased to announce the formation of a countywide NAMI affiliate to be known as NAMI Santa Barbara County, which will bring critically needed NAMI programs and services back to northern Santa Barbara County,” said George Kaufmann, president of the local NAMI affiliate, currently known as NAMI Southern Santa Barbara County.

The initiative came about when a group of North County families, who had to travel long distances to participate in NAMI programs, petitioned the Santa Barbara affiliate to expand its services to their area.

The first North County NAMI program will be a Family to Family class starting Feb. 12 at Marian Regional Medical Center. The evidence-based class is shown to help families of people living with mental health conditions to better cope with the impact of mental illness in their loved ones. It is taught by trained, certified teachers who have close relatives living with serious mental health disorders.

Course topics include: overview of specific mental disorders and their treatment; how to cope more effectively with the impact of having a family member living with a mental health disorder; how to better support recovery of a relative; and how to take care of themselves.

“I’m not alone in this challenge. I’m now able to separate the illness and symptoms from the person,” said one past participant after completing the class

“My aha! moment occurred during the second class, when I learned that mental illness is no one’s fault. It is ok to talk about mental health, we must break the silence,” said another participant.

The multi-week class is free to all participants but requires advance registration. For more information or to begin the registration process, contact Ramona Winner, Mental Wellness Center family advocate, 805-884-8440 ext. 3206 or

— WaveComm SB.