Melissa Trowbridge, Port Alberni Regional Educator, BC Schizophrenia Society.

New programs fill gaps in care for families living with schizophrenia

BC Schizophrenia Society initiatives provide education, support and community awareness

Families living with schizophrenia and other serious mental illness in Port Alberni and west coast communities have a new set of resources to call upon.

In addition to Family Support Nights, a Partnership Education Program and direct support from a new regional educator, the BC Schizophrenia Society is launching Strengthening Families Together, a free 10 week course.

“There was a gap in services for our families,” says Melissa Trowbridge, Port Alberni Regional Educator. “We’re here for the families, the caregivers, and the community.”

As someone who has worked extensively in the local health community, Trowbridge is well-positioned to connect families with resources and answer any questions they may have. “Just call me, ask questions,” she says. “I can help.”

With funding from the Ministry of Health, BCSS is launching three programs designed to provide direct support to families of those with not only schizophrenia, but also other serious mental illnesses:

1. Strengthening Families Together – The free, 10-week certified course, which Trowbridge hopes to launch early in the New Year, tackles numerous issues facing families: understanding mental illnesses and how they are treated, and ways to cope with and support a loved one in finding a road to recovery. The program is designed for anyone living with a friend or family member who is struggling with mental illness, those looking for a safe environment to talk about their loved one’s illness and how it’s affecting them, and those wanting learn to provide caring support and advocate in their community. Sessions welcome guest speakers addressing a variety of topics and certificates will be presented upon completion.

2. Family Support Nights – “Our definition of ‘family’ is very broad for all our programs – family members, friends, significant others, and those who provide support in a non-professional relationship we consider ‘family,’” says Trowbridge, who would like to start this program as soon as possible. Those interested in connecting with others with a loved one with schizophrenia are invited to contact her.

3. Partnership Education Program – Based on a personal storytelling model, community partnership presentations feature a panel of three guest speakers: a person with a psychiatric diagnosis, a family member, and a mental health professional. Presented as a team, each person describes their personal experience with mental illness. “Being able to learn from people with real personal experience helps others in the community better understand chronic and severe mental illness,” Trowbridge says.

Do you have a family member struggling with mental illness? You’re not alone.

Contact Melissa Trowbridge at portalberni@bcss.org or 250-937-1403.

***

The British Columbia Schizophrenia Society is a province-wide, non-profit organization and family support system dedicated to supporting each other, educating the public, raising funds for research and advocating for better services for people with schizophrenia and other serious and persistent mental illness.

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