St. Louis Mental Illness Family Support Group
DR. GIUFFRA, MD, PHD, SPEAKS ABOUT MEDICATION - SPECIAL START TIME 6:30PM ON MAY 21, 2013!
1st & 3rd Tuesday of every month
7 - 8:30 p.m.
9890 Clayton Road, Suite 100
St. Louis, Missouri 63124
Families and loved ones of anyone with a mental illness
Jim and Linda Murphey: 314-481-0008
Murphey's Featured by St. Louis Review
The Murpheys of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in South St. Louis found hope and help in dealing with a family member's mental illness. Now they are bringing that hope and help to others.
"We're here, and we're getting the word out about how important it is to come to a support group," said Linda Murphey.
In 1999 their lives changed dramatically when their daughter, Laura, was diagnosed, with depression and later with bipolar disorder. The next 12 years have been filled with many ups and downs, hospitalizations, changes in medications and electroconvulsive therapy treatments. "We have had more anxious moments, tears and more sleepless nights than we can count," they recently wrote in explaining how they had been helped four years ago when they began attending "Hope for a Balanced Life," a support group for family and friends of someone with mental illness started by the Karla Smith Foundation.
"We always felt as if we were alone in this, like nobody else had these problems," said Linda's husband, Deacon Jim Murphey.
At the support group meetings, he said, he learned that other people also feel alone, don't know where to turn and try to determine fault. "We felt like we were walking on eggshells all the time. It was just the unknown that was getting to us," he said
The Murpheys learned about the Karla Smith Foundation's support group after they attended an annual conference on mental illness awareness, "Erase the Stigma," at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, IL. It took a few months before they decided to attend, but now call it life-changing. "Everyone there deals with the same issues. It's totally confidential, and we talk about everything," Linda Murphey said. "You laugh, you cry, you share. It's so helpful."
They received answers to questions, links to resources, helpful hints and more. "We talked about the importance of follow-ups with the psychiatrists and psychologists and medication," Linda Murphey said.
Medication and side effects are a common topic. Many times, people stop taking the medicine because they feel better.
The Murpheys went to work learning about mental illness and bipolar disorder. From the support group has come hope and balance in their lives. The group stresses that no situation is hopeless, and it is possible to find happiness and peace.
The Smith family started the Karla Smith Foundation after their daughter ended a seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder with her suicide in 2003. They support other families, educate to reduce the stigma and advocate for those affected by mental illness and suicide.
The support group meets in Illinois, and the Smiths asked the Murpheys to begin a group in Missouri. The first meeting was in September, and the group now meets the first and third Wednesday of each month. The focus is that "no matter what happens we're going to get through it. We'll find a way to cope with it. There's help our there," Linda Murphey said.
The meetings are nondenominational, but Deacon Murphey said "the matter of God in your life comes up. It is one of nine strategies" of coping.
Once, when Laura was hospitalized, she refused to acknowledge her parents. The Murpheys said a prayer, concluding: "OK, God, she's yours. We need help and we're turning her over to you.
The next day, the situation improved. "It was a real lift for us," Deacon Murphey said.
Laura supports her parents in reaching out to others. And, her mother said, "she encourages everyone not to give up. Even when she was at her worst, she knew we never gave up and that she'd be OK. She knew that her doctor, therapist and family and friends would be there,"
The Murpheys have received much support from their parish. When they were included on a prayer list, they learned how many others have been touched by relatives or friends with mental illnesses. The foundation points out that one in four Americans experience a mental health disorder in a given year.
The Murpheys' daughter sees the need to take her medication and keep her appointments with her psychiatrist and counselor, no longer trying to handle mood swings on her own. She now seeks help as soon as she feels a change beginning.
Her parents realize setbacks can occur but feel the support they have received will allow them to cope.
Also, "If it wasn't for our faith life we never would have gotten through this," Deacon Murphey said.
Linda added, "We believe God brought us here for a reason. And we had the power of prayer going for us."