For those suffering from a mental illness, finding help can be overwhelming and expensive. That is why the National Alliance on Mental Illness offers resources and support to bridge the gap, emphasizing both during Mental Health Awareness Week today through Saturday.

“Due to cutbacks there is a huge void of resources,” said Ann Leiker, NAMI Hays vice president. “Organizations such as NAMI are going to be picking up the pieces. Professional institutions are having their funding cut. We’re trying to fill in those voids to support both the peers and the families.”

NAMI meets the first Monday of each month at 6 p.m. for support groups and for education at 7 p.m. at the Center for Life Experiences, 2900 Hall St., (785) 259-6859. A separate group is offered for family members and for peers.

The educational classes for each month include: October, resources on the web; November, veterans and families accessing benefits; December, coping with holiday emotion; January, strengthening families; February, dual diagnosis; March, drumming; April, in our own voice; May, hope of recovery; and June, mental health care for the elderly.

One of NAMI’s core classes is Family to Family, a 12-week course for families on such things on mental health diagnosis and to help families who are caring for someone with mental illness. Class members will learn how to respond and be supportive. The class will be held in the spring, but a date has not been set.

“It’s very intensive,” Leiker said. “It’s excellent information.”

The support groups are helpful to allow people with mental health issues to express any concerns they are having and how they are coping, said Dan Gosbeth, NAMI Hays president.

“I think this is extremely beneficial to anybody who is going through a crisis at any particular moment or somebody who has been through a crisis,” he said.

A couple of future topic areas include art therapy and pet therapy and how that benefits the individual, Gosbeth said.

“The nature of mental health issues is it tends to affect that support (from others) that can be beneficial. It can be overwhelming when someone is going through a crisis,” Gosbeth said.

The state NAMI supports mental health issues.

“NAMI is also a source of advocacy for those with mental health issues,” he said. “The NAMI Kansas at the state level is also pushing to make sure the mental health issues for everyone in Kansas are being met or improved at some level.”