For the second year, the Hays affiliate for the National Alliance on Mental Illness will offer a free 12-week class designed to help individuals better understand, support and assist relatives or friends who suffer from mental illness.

Approximately 17 people took part in the Family-to-Family Education Program last year, and each of them were helped, according to Mary Akins, one of the program teachers.

“Everyone says it’s life-changing,” Akins said of the program.

The skills give participants a deeper understanding of several things, including what it’s like to have a mental illness, how to cope with their loved one and how to learn new skills to take care of themselves while doing so, according to Akins.

“It goes deep,” she said. “It’s very powerful.”

A few of the mental illnesses the program focuses on are anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder or manic depression, major depression, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, co-occurring brain disorders and addictive disorders.

The course is taught by a team of trained volunteers who have personal experiences with mental illness.

Akins has an understanding of mental illness professionally and personally. The NAMI board member also is a victim of PTSD.

“You’ll find support you never thought you’d find,” she said.

The first class is Tuesday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at the Center for Life Experiences, 2900 Hall. Classes will continue each Tuesday at the same time through April 12.

Pre-registration is required so necessary materials are available, and individuals can register until Feb. 9 with the understanding they already will have missed a few classes.

For more information, visit www.nami.org/familytofamily.

To register, or for questions, call (785) 259-5859.