BC Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) Vancouver Island Regional Manager Danita Senf is proud by the initiatives taken by the Regional Educators working in her region. The Vancouver Island Regional Educators are constantly looking for new ways to provide support and training to serve the unique needs of their communities.

Last fall, Alberni-Clayoquot Regional Educator Melissa Trowbridge joined a local CMHA to participate in a suicide awareness event with clients and community members.

For example, BCSS plays a significant role in the provision of mental health education and support on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. One of the more common requests received is for in-house mental health workshops and presentations to help train and educate staff at a variety of local service providers. To meet this need, Melissa Trowbridge, Regional Educator for Alberni-Clayoquot, worked closely with Danita to create customized workshops and presentations using materials and information pulled from the BCSS education program “Strengthening Families Together.” One time, the Ucluelet RCMP requested a presentation that would enable community workers to deliver services and support more effectively and efficiently. In particular, they wanted Melissa to include information about mental health services in the region, suicide prevention, and self-care resources for their members. Melissa partnered with the Westcoast Community Resource Society to provide a presentation addressing those needs. Other groups who have requested workshops and presentations include Port Alberni Association for Community Living, Alberni Community Women’s Service Society, and other local RCMP detachments.

Regional Educators connect with community members and help smash stigma through tables at local events. BCSS Regional Educator, Rhonda Kuncio, shows off her community table.

Meanwhile in Port Alberni, BCSS Alberni Valley Regional Educator Rhonda Kuncio is part of a pilot project where local community professionals work with the local RCMP to help provide a less traumatic experience for people with serious mental illness requiring immediate support. Until recently individuals with mental illness were taken to the hospital where RCMP officers were required to sit and wait along with the individual until a doctor has seen them and determined what is to happen next. However, there has been times where they have waited for as long as six hours, only to have the person sent home when there are no beds available. Through this pilot project, community members with mental illness will be escorted to a private room in the police station, and a professional best suited to the situation is then called to assist. For example, if the individual is from a local First Nation, a professional from their community who is familiar with the person and knows their history is called to come in and talk to them about the best possible way of dealing with their situation. It is hoped and anticipated that such an approach will lessen  the potential for distress and provide a better crisis response for all concerned.

In the Cowichan Valley Region, Regional Educator Tara McCaffery has begun introducing BCSS programs to both inmates and staff. This unique opportunity was made possible through her connections with the Provincial Health Services Authority and with a local correctional facility. After gaining permission, Tara held a Strengthening Families Together program for inmates, all of whom have family members living with mental illness. Minor changes had to be made to how the material was presented, but resulted in inmates volunteering to take turns to co-facilitate the group. The group was very engaged and inquisitive; and the course enabled them to learn the material more thoroughly, gain potential employment skills, and more equipped to help and support their family member living with serious mental illness. Tara is now offering a Lunch and Learn version of Strengthening Families Together to Correctional Officers. This will benefit not only these front-line workers, but also the many inmates whose lives have been touched by mental illness.

These are just a few of the many things that the Vancouver Island Regional Team does to make Danita proud of her team. Through innovations like these, more people are able to receive the education and support they need to navigate the mental health system in B.C.

If you would like information on how to get these programs and services to where you are or if you would like to talk to someone on the Vancouver Island Region Team, email Danita at vimanager@bcss.org.