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NAMI support group launches in Oceanside

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A mental health support group co-sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness is coming to the Oceanside Library. It will welcome parents and adult family members of children ages 15 and younger experiencing symptoms of mental health conditions.

“We want parents to be more aware of the needs of their children,” said David Sills, an Oceanside resident and president of the Queens/Nassau County chapter of NAMI, who will help lead the group. “We emphasize that [a mental health condition] is an illness, not something they did wrong. It’s a medical problem, but they also must be active in assisting children.”

The twice-monthly meetings will help parents and loved ones find ways to cope with a young person in the family struggling with their mental health. Sills and his wife, Gail, a volunteer counselor with NAMI, will co-facilitate the sessions and help participants gain support from one another.

The group will begin on Jan. 21 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. and continue to meet every other week.

NAMI previously had five offices in Nassau County, including one in Valley Stream, but only one remains, in Lake Success. Sills said he hopes the Oceanside support group will make NAMI’s resources more accessible to people on the South Shore. “There’s a need for it,” Sills said.

Sills noted that this is a “unique group” because “unlike older people, younger people have school issues related to mental health issues.”

Each meeting will begin with an introduction, so that participants can attend whether they were at the previous meeting or not. Each person will share what’s on their minds, and then, the Sills will find similarities between the issues and work with the group to brainstorm solutions.

The Oceanside Library will assist with spreading the word so that patrons know they can join whenever they need to, said Ocaria DiMango, the library’s adult program coordinator.

“Libraries have been changing with the times, responding as best they can to the real needs of people today,” DiMango said. “More people, from more diverse backgrounds, for more diverse reasons, are coming into the library every day, so it's important that we meet those needs with the changing times. This program is one of those services that will continue to help more people in our community.”