I’m very very thankful I had you to turn to when things got really bad. Who else would understand? Not any of my friends…that’s for sure.

I’ve tried to explain things to my friends, but they are now stand offish. I think they are afraid of Harry* and his illness. At times, I have been as well.

At the very first meeting when I first started to talk about it, I could feel my face turn beet red. I was so embarrassed and ashamed of Harry. I kept thinking – people must think I’m an idiot to stay with him. So many times I had my bags packed, wanting to drive away forever. To leave the shame, stress and embarrassment. But, my heart wouldn’t let me.
I have been with Harry for 30 years. He helped me when I was helpless (after surgeries and illnesses). We have grown up together. He wasn’t always this way. It’s sad to now watch him deteriorate into someone I don’t know (at times).

I didn’t know what Schizophrenia was. I didn’t know Harry had it. All the strange things he would say when he went into psychosis would freak me out. I was afraid of him during these times. All kinds of medications were tried, to no avail – except for Clopixol injections. I did not want to accept that he had a mental illness. I kept wishing it would go away (as there were long periods of times where he would be somewhat ok).

Now, I have to just take things day by day. I have to realize he can’t be compared to regular people. An old friend of Harry’s once said “Harry is Harry.”

That is so true…I have to just accept him for the way he is.

* Pseudonym

I wish the public could be more informed about this course [Strengthening Families Together]. I have learned to laugh “with” our loved ones. I can better support my step daughter with her illness.

I am a participant of the strengthening families together course that took place in Chilliwack in April & May 2012.

My brother lives with schizophrenia since he was diagnosed over ten years ago. I came to take part in this course when my father asked me to join. At first, I had reservations about attending. The thick handouts weren’t a pretty sight to see at seven o’clock at night after a long day at the office. Having said that, it really helped to have everyone read along together because it engaged people in conversation, and the handouts are very informative when I make time to read them. Furthermore, the facilitators were really good at sensing the needs of the group and carrying on from there.

The course reminded me that I am not alone and neither is my brother. It brought back many emotions and memories, but also reminded me of how far along our family has come. I must say things have come a long way over the past ten years or so, while other things have not, both in my family and in the mental health system. I suppose one can say the course offered an interesting lens of observation. I would really like to thank all who played a role in making this course possible, from the national stand to the grassroots.

O Siyam (Thank you)

The program that I attended was an excellent learning and sharing process. The resource people who addressed specific topics were experts in their fields.

This was such an eye opener for myself to know that this one type of mental illness is just one of many. Watching despair turn into hope and knowing that families really need to be together to support one another. From what I heard of families sharing was they sure wish a lot more people would just quit denying that it has happened in their family. I observe that there is total lack of political advocacy for mental illnesses and would hope that someone with that power would get on board or come to a group to hear what the families of the ones who have the illness are sharing with what works and what does not work.

I am sending this note to thank you for the opportunity to attend the Strengthening Families Together course.

Tomorrow night is the last session and I am having mixed emotions. I am glad I won’t have to make the drive from Hope to Chilliwack on Wednesdays anymore, but I am sad to see the course end especially now that we (as a group) are developing relationships, and it seems that we are now more at ease to share with one another our concerns and experiences. It would be nice to see the course extended an extra few sessions so we could put into practice some of the information we have learned in the course and then get feedback from each other.

At first I had reservations about attending the course due to the drive and also because I am not of Aboriginal descent. I didn’t know if I would be accepted. I have found that everyone has been very supportive of me and my story and I was welcomed into the group with open arms. I learned that mental illness has no boundaries when it comes to nationality, culture or race. It can effect anyone and hurts all people involved.

By taking the course I have learned more facts about schizophrenia and other disorders. I also was educated more on the different medications and how they work and about side effects of the medications. I learned coping skills for myself and my family member. This course has been very beneficial for me and also my family member because now I am more equipped in many different ways to deal with mental illness. I recommend this course to anyone who has a family member living with a mental illness.

SFT is a wonderful program put together by the fabulous team at BCSS and facilitated by volunteers such as myself.

There is much I can say about the training I received, the personal experience, both at the training and since, while facilitating the course and the friendships and connections that I have made since being a part of this team.

I am so happy that two years ago I came across an article in my local newspaper asking for volunteers to be trained in a new program at BCSS which would help families who have loved ones who are mentally ill or incapacitated in some way. What would be required of those who were chosen to receive the training was to pass on the information in a format that included a Facilitators manual of ten lessons to be taught once a week for ten weeks in you community. To me this sounded like a godsend.

My son is a diagnosed with Catatonic Schizophrenia. I spent a lot of years being frustrated, scared, angry, sad, lost and alone in our efforts to understand and get help for our situation. Of course denial played a big part in how much help we were able to get or prepared to take. I spent a lot of time trying to ‘fix it’ myself to no avail.

What the Strengthening Families Together taught me and that I now teach is that we are not alone and that we have to get over the stigma we feel about having this ‘problem’ in our families so that we can help our loved ones and others who are also in the same situation.
The training for me was very emotional – I dealt with and worked through things I did not know I had to deal with. I met a lot of beautiful people either with their own diagnosis or that of a family member with many different experiences

– good, bad and even ugly sometimes.

What I learned is:

  • – Knowledge is power and if I could describe in one word my feelings before learning anything it would be ‘powerless.’
  • – The medical profession need us to be informed to help them help us.
  • – Barriers are broken down between people who didn’t know each other who come from all walks of life and cultures.
  • – Everyone is someones son, daughter, sister, brother, mother or father and everyone’s story is different yet the same.
  • – It is possible to laugh again. We do that at our sessions – something we thought we would never do.
  • – We learn from each other. Every time I teach the course I am amazed at what I have learned.
  • – There is immense satisfaction in arming people with information that will help them navigate the system and their world with better tools.
  • – I am grateful to BCSS for providing the means for me to continue on my own personal journey of learning and for allowing me to teach these classes to others who are all at different places in their own journeys. The difference in all of us at the end of the ten weeks is truly amazing.

I wish the public could be more informed about this course [Strengthening Families Together]. I have learned to laugh “with” our loved ones. I can better support my step daughter with her illness.

Some of the most valuable things from this course [Strengthening Families Together]: that I am not alone, that mental illness is very prevalent. That I am not responsible for it and I need to care of “self”. Thank you for offering this course, I thoroughly enjoyed not only the material but the friendships and support.

Hi Sophia:

I received a heartwarming phone message from a family member who I had referred to your online support group. She couldn’t say enough about how helpful it was.

Here’s an excerpt from her feedback:
“I’m using the forum and it has helped in leaps and bounds relationship-wise and making quite a difference. Thank you so much for the valuable, valuable information. I am just so appreciative, more than I can say. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

The support work you do is truly amazing, Sophia. You provide such a safe, informative, accessible medium for people who are really desperate for help. I refer everyone I know to your online program with great confidence.

Many thanks!