For parents who need support and resources to help them navigate the children’s mental health system in Illinois, there’s Fred. It’s a monthly meeting group that hosts expert speakers, advocates for community-funded services and helps parents become more effective advocates for their children. “We offer hope, borne from experience, that our children and our families can get better,” said Jean Meister, who co-founded Fred in 2007 with child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Susan Scherer. 

The name Fred is almost a code name for the group, said one member of its leadership team. It is a way to refer to the group without saying “the group for parents of mentally ill children.” 

The format for Fred is similar to that of the NAMI meetings. Everything said during the meeting is promised to remain entirely confidential. Each person introduces themselves by their first name only and in three minutes or less talks about their current issues or situation with their loved one. Other members of the group contribute suggestions, ideas, or possible help for each person’s problem either after each three-minute introduction or after everyone in the group has spoken for their three minutes.  Sometimes the help is just in having a place to talk openly about the difficulties of living with an ill child and be understood.

SAY Connects is sponsored by the Good Heart Work Smart Foundation in partnership with Success for All Youth (SAY).  

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