Workshops help families navigate mental health system

The program is taught by family members who have experience in helping their loved ones

Sometimes, the best way to learn how to navigate a complex system is to get the lowdown from someone who has already been down that tough road.

That’s what’s being offered to Tri-City families whose loved ones are dealing with serious mental illness.

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Beginning Sept. 18 and running on Tuesdays, 7 to 9:30 p.m., through Dec. 4, Pathways Serious Mental Illness Society will run the Family-to-Family education program.

The free class will cover topics such as symptoms of bipolarity, schizophrenia, clinical depression and anxiety; treatment; advice on working with the system; medications and communication; and problem solving. And it will offer tips and information you can only get from someone who has been through the same experience.

“It’s taught by a family member who has been through the challenges of accessing services for their loved one,” said Nancy Ford, Pathways' executive director, who struggled to get services for her own son who experienced psychosis.

“I was saved by this program,” said Ford, who noted she did not know what to do to get help for her son nor did she understand what he was going through and why. Ford called somebody at Pathways who knew what to do because they had already taken the course.

“It was a year before we got him into treatment,” Ford said, acknowledging that her son, now 38, had to be picked up by police under the Mental Health Act in order to get help.

Families who are struggling will quickly identify with some of the issues raised at the Pathways Family-to-Family program, as Ford herself did over a decade ago.

“The most important message families get from this course is that their loved one is not a behaviour problem. It’s an illness and it needs treatment just like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”

• The program is free but registration is required. It will be held at the New View Society Clubhouse, 2050 Mary Hill Rd., Port Coquitlam. For information and to register, call 604-926-0856 or email info@pathwayssmi.org. For a course outline and details, visit www.pathwayssmi.org/education/family-to-family-course.

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