Strengthening Families

Photo Credit: Patrick Shannon

Strengthening Families

🕔Nov 06, 2017

Mental illness can be as challenging for caregivers and family members as it is for the person experiencing the illness itself. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, schizophrenia affects about one percent of Canadians, with a predominant age of onset between 18 and 25. Often misunderstood, it can be managed effectively if treated early. Education is key.

The British Columbia Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) is currently hosting the national education program, Strengthening Families Together, on Haida Gwaii. It’s the first time a program like this has been offered here. Comprised of 10 sessions, it specifically targets family members, friends and caregivers of individuals with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses.

“I think the program is really important because it’s for the family members.” explains says Midori Campos, Haida Gwaii coordinator for BCSS. “Programs are usually catered to individuals with a mental illness, which is important, but families are left in the lurch.”

The free course provides participants with practical skills in communication techniques, coping mechanisms, and self-care. It also provides tools for navigating the mental health system and criminal justice system. Designed for multiple family member perspectives, the current program has five parents enrolled.

“There are pros and cons to having a bunch of different family positions,” says Campos. “We’re mainly focusing on the parent perspective this time.”

Group sessions bring people together to share their lived experience. “No one is an expert at this,” says Campos. “Each person is the expert of their own situation and their own life.” The peer facilitation model, where participants who complete the program can return and pass on their knowledge and experiences, has proved successful in other locations. While this is the first session on Haida Gwaii, there are plans to run two more sessions in early 2018, including one in Masset.

“As facilitators we can come in with techniques and ideas, but really it’s the sharing of the family members’ experiences that we can learn from—that is what is really special. There is so much experience in the room,” says Campos.

If you’d like to learn more about Strengthening Families Together or need advice about resources for your loved one, and support for your family, contact Midori Campos. She is located at the Haida Gwaii General Hospital.

Visit, email or call 778-361-0260.

— Allison Smith