Free Oakdale support group for family and friends of people with mental illnesses

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, sponsors free support groups for those who love or live with someone with a mental illness.

One such support group meets twice monthly in Oakdale, aimed at family and friends of those with mental illnesses. Dan P. has been facilitating the family support group for five years. He says the group, which meets at Canvas Health, focuses on sharing common experiences.

“Oftentimes what you’ll find is that the group mentality — or people’s experiences that they can bring to the table — end up providing a new perspective or a new idea to try,” he said.  

Peer facilitators and group participants alike help each other develop coping skills for an illness that can reach beyond the person they love and into their own lives.

Marilyn Dornfeld, NAMI’s adult programs director, said a friend or family member’s diagnosis can change their loved one’s lives in big ways, too.

“Things can be totally different than they used to be” when a loved one has a new or changing mental illness, Dornfeld said. 

Families often want more understanding surrounding the illness, she said, but don’t necessarily know the resources available to them and their loved ones. 

“Sometimes it’s nice to know that you’re not the only family going through this. That’s comforting,” Dornfeld said. 

There are over 20 NAMI family support groups in Minnesota, along with online groups, a partners and spouses group, and parent resource groups. NAMI also offers many free support groups for those living with a mental illness, as well as groups for people who identify as LGBTQ, young adults, and those who struggle with anxiety and panic.

Attendees do not need to register or attend a certain number of times. Dan said many people come regularly and some come just once. The group usually has six to 10 attendees.

The Oakdale family support group meets the second and fourth Tuesday each month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Canvas Health community room, located at 7066 Stillwater Blvd. Contact Dan at 651-341-8918 with questions specific to the Oakdale family support group. More information and resources can be found at 


—Amy Felegy

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (5 votes)
Comment Here