BC Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) offers many programs that provide support and education to families and communities impacted by severe and persistent mental illness. These programs and services provide support and education for individuals and families in the form of educational presentations, workshops, scholarships, respite care and support groups. With programs geared toward adults, children and youth, BCSS aims to share accurate and up-to-date information about mental illness and the resources available to support those affected by mental illness. Another key goal of BCSS is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, which is a barrier to accurate and timely diagnosis, treatment and management. BCSS is also a leader in providing valuable knowledge and tools for families living with severe and persistent mental illnesses to manage the illness and maintain the best possible quality of life.

Strengthening Families Together Programs

Friends and family of a person living with a severe and persistent mental illness live with that illness too. Created by the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, Strengthening Families Together provides the knowledge, support and tools necessary for families to manage mental illnesses together. Participating families learn the facts about psychosis, schizophrenia,  mood disorders, and other serious mental illnesses. They gain information about treatments and side-effects; the mental health system in BC, including how it works and who is involved; mental illness and how it relates to addiction and the criminal justice system. They also learn valuable strategies about how to help their loved ones and find support for themselves in their role as a caregiver.

Strengthening Families Together helps participants build the skills to live with serious mental illness day-to-day. Sessions cover communication tactics, stress management tools, self-care planning, crisis planning, and advocacy. Through discussion and group exercises, families build supportive connections with others who share similar experiences. Through the program, participants also develop support groups within their communities. The 10-session program is available free of charge to participants. 

Strengthening Families Together – First Nations is based on the core Strengthening Families Together program,  adapted to honor and include First Nations culture and traditions. It was developed by BC Schizophrenia Society in partnership with leaders from the Stó:lō Nation. The program is facilitated by a trained community member and incorporates traditional cultural practices, creating a culturally safe environment. Participating families support each other by sharing their experiences and learn skills to be effective personal advocates for their loved ones. Strengthening Families Together – First Nations is available to First Nations communities across  British Columbia and is free of charge to participants and facilitators.

Family Support Groups

BC Schizophrenia Society offers support groups throughout BC for family and friends who are supporting a loved one living with mental illness. These groups provide a safe and supportive environment for family and friends to learn about mental illness, ask questions and connect with other caregivers.

With the support of HereToHelp, BC Schizophrenia Society provides a province-wide calendar of support groups for family and friends of people with mental illness. In addition to family support groups, this calendar lists information sessions, meet and greets, caregiver support, educational workshops and more. Groups, sessions, and events are searchable by region or date, with many being offered on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. Find a support group or event near you.

If you are interested in adding a group to the calendar, please email info@bcss.org or call 1-888-888-0029.

Partnership Education Presentation Program

The Partnership Education Presentation Program uses storytelling to shed light on the reality and scope of severe and persistent mental illness. A panel of three guest speakers — usually a person with a mental illness, a family member and a mental health professional— share their insights and personal journeys with mental illness. In educating communities this way, Partnership Education Presentations foster understanding and reduce stigma. Partnership Education Presentations are  valuable to students, teachers, mental health workers and people who work with the public.

In particular, Partnership Education Presentations have been used to facilitate discussions and inform future criminal justice workers, psychiatric nursing students, psychiatrists, social service workers and more.

ReachOut Psychosis Tour

With the support of HereToHelp, a partnership between mental health and addictions not-for-profits across BC, BC Schizophrenia Society provides an interactive musical presentation designed to teach students and educators about psychosis. Endorsed by early psychosis clinicians, the presentation provides audiences facts about psychosis, challenges the stigma and myths surrounding psychosis, and highlights how to recognize and seek help for youth with emerging psychosis. Since psychosis typically appears between the ages of 15 and 25, the show is geared towards secondary school students in grades 10-12, but can also be adapted for community events. There is no charge for secondary school presentations with at least 300 students. ReachOut Psychosis performs throughout BC. Book a show, or watch a video of the full presentation at reachoutpsychosis.com.

Kids in Control & Teens in Control

Kids in Control and Teens in Control are BC Schizophrenia Society programs that provide support and education for children and youth aged 8-18 who have a family member with a mental illness. Through these programs, participants learn healthy coping strategies and self-care practices, while gaining factual information about mental illness so they can better understand the behaviour of their parent or sibling. The small group setting allows participants to  connect with peers who share similar experiences in a safe, accepting environment and learn they are not alone. Kids in Control is intended for children ages 8 to 12, while Teens in Control is intended for youth ages 13 to 18.

The program consists of eight two-hour sessions, usually offered once per week after school in community settings such as schools, community centres, family service organizations or neighbourhood centres. Group sizes range from 6 to 10 participants.

There is also a condensed workshop version of Teens in Control available, which focuses on the main ideas from the full program. Teens in Control workshops are usually two two-hour sessions, with optional follow-up sessions. This format is intended for youth groups, youth drop-in centres or high school groups that want to learn more about mental illness and ways to practice self-care.

Kids and Teens in Control are free programs with referrals accepted on an ongoing basis using the referral form. For more information about these programs, or to find out where they are currently offered, please contact the Manager, Kids/Teens in Control at 778-903-2752 or kidsincontrol@bcss.org.

Reaching Out Teacher's Manual

The Reaching Out Teacher’s Manual provides teachers with the knowledge and tools to educate their students on the facts and misconceptions about schizophrenia and other serious and persistent mental illness. Students will learn the importance of early intervention, what they can do if a friend or family member shows symptoms and how schizophrenia can be treated. The manual includes an educational video, two lesson plans (with the option to only do the first lesson if time is limited), suggestions of related topics for students to explore, and possible ways to incorporate mental illness education into grade 11 and 12 curriculums.

Puppet Education Presentation Program

The Puppet Education Program consists of a puppet show, followed by a short discussion about mental illness, designed to help younger children understand mental illness. Ideal for children in grades 3-5, this program challenges stigma around mental illness in children by teaching them factual information about mental illness, helping reduce fear and stigma surrounding mental illness. They also learn how they can support a friend or family member with mental illness and how to seek help.

For those interested in having a puppet show come to a school in their community, please call 1-888-888-0029.

Presented by BC Schizophrenia Society in the Northwest region, What Are Friends For? is geared toward kids in grades 4, 5 and 6. It is available in Prince Rupert, Terrace, Kitimat, and Kitimat Village. Call 1-888-888-0029 to book a free performance.

Family Respite Program

BC Schizophrenia Society’s Family Respite Program provides essential reprieve to people caring for a loved one with a mental illness. Mental health professionals perform short-term care, so unpaid primary caregivers can go on holiday or simply take a few hours for themselves. The Family Respite Program may also be able to provide assistance when a caregiver is ill, or otherwise unable to function in a caregiving capacity. Home visits are an option for caregivers who require extra assistance or professional expertise during a rough patch. By making it possible for them to take much-needed breaks, the program helps caregivers gain the strength and energy they require to care for their loved ones.

The Family Respite Program is funded by regional health authorities and is currently available in the Fraser Valley and Victoria. Call 1-888-888-0029 or email respite@bcss.org for more information on how to access services. Click here to read testimonials from caregivers who have benefitted from the program.

Yes2Me Scholarships

The Yes2Me Scholarship Program helps young people with schizophrenia achieve their educational goals. BC Schizophrenia Society and the Otsuka-Lundbeck Alliance award scholarships of $1,000 each to students in accredited programs, such as high school equivalency, trade, and vocational certifications, and bachelor and graduate degrees. Eligible applicants must be residents of BC, be diagnosed with schizophrenia, and submit a completed Scholarship Application package. The Yes2Me Scholarships are helping those who live with schizophrenia and are working hard to build their futures.

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