About FSTN

The Family Support Telephone Network (FSTN) was born in November 2006 in Montgomery County, Maryland USA, when a group of family members of persons with serious persistent mental illness came together for mutual support and a vision to reach out to others unable to attend regularly scheduled support meetings (such as those offered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness [NAMI]).  Working alongside NAMI, the group quickly realized that families need support between regularly scheduled meetings and at moments of crisis, and often desire support tailored to their particular circumstances.  Telephone conversations seemed to be an ideal way to enable communication and support at such moments.  The loosely knit group quickly adopted telephone listening and support standards that are modeled after professionally recognized standards that assure confidentiality to the participants and that recognize the sensitive but non-professional nature of the support offered.  Out of this need, a registry of willing members and community referral resources was created.


The members of FSTN are independent agents with no formal affiliation; there are no member dues, no group bylaws, no common property.  The members of FSTN share nothing except our desire to offer mutual support.  FSTN does not seek to replace NAMI or any similar organization, rather we work alongside these groups and always encourages people to join NAMI, to take the NAMI “Family to Family” classes, and participate in other NAMI activities as well as to join the Mental Health First Aid Classes at the Mental Health Association, and to explore fully all the services and resources their families can usefully use.  Likewise, FSTN members make no pretense of replacing professional services and agencies, but rather choose to work in tandem with them and to refer families to such services at every opportunity.


With time, many members’ concerns over absent or inadequate resources in the community lead rise to various advocacy activities, such as working with the County to improve Crisis Center response and accountability.  FSTN continues to organize concerned individuals around issues that affect either the families of or individuals with serious persistent mental illness.


More recently, FSTN has recognized the need for families coping with serious persistent mental illness to engage in festive social events in order to reduce the feelings of isolation and lack of joy.  Twice a year, FSTN members organize a social gathering (the Winter Family Celebration & the Summer Family Picnic), welcoming all interested to attend, share a meal, and have some fun.  In addition to families coping with serious persistent mental illness, service & support organizations are invited and encouraged to introduce their resources to the attendees.  Political representatives are also welcomed, in the hopes that they might develop a heightened awareness of the needs and concerns of FSTN families.


FSTN has cautiously grown along with the proliferation of electronic communications and information, wanting to make communication as accessible as possible while protecting the privacy of the person with serious persistent mental illness and their families.  Many members choose to use email as well as phone to communicate and the FSTN.Family web site is a resource for public communication.


FSTN welcomes your interest and hopes that you find the support & information you seek in caring for those in your life with serious persistent mental illness.