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.
Find a Strengthening Communities Together program near you.
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 the 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.
Find a Strengthening Communities Together – First Nations program near you.
(For more information on the Strengthening Families Together-First Nations program, the same course offered through a cultural indigenous lens, please see the section below).
This program, developed by the Schizophrenia Society of Canada is now available, replacing the “Family to Family” program.
Be sure you check with your local regional educator for a complete list of courses and groups in your area.
Most regions offer this course in spring and fall and take names for waiting lists in between. If you don’t see a course coming up, be sure to call your local BCSS Regional Educator or local BCSS Branch and get on the list to be contacted when one is scheduled. If we don’t hear from you, we won’t know there is enough interest to hold a course, so it’s helpful to put your name on the list.
Strengthening Families Together grew out of the strong belief that Canadian families have a right to reliable educational information on serious mental illnesses, regardless of where they reside.
This 10-session national education program for family members and friends of individuals with serious and persistent mental illnesses aims to increase accessibility to Canadian-based information on the topics associated with living daily with a mental illness.
Strengthening Families Together is about more than education: it is about strengthening family members and friends of individuals with a serious mental illness by providing support, awareness and tools.
Families have an opportunity to discuss the daily challenges they face and learn how to connect with others through membership in their local provincial society and chapter/branch.
Families get reliable and consistent information about mental illness, treatment options, causes, research, and available mental health services, in the hopes of diminishing the stigma attached to diagnosis.
Families are equipped with problem solving, coping, and advocacy and communication skills, and the know-how to develop their own local support group.
Strengthening Families Together Courses are often funded by donors, Health Authorities and Ministry of Health in the areas where they are delivered and are provided free of charge to participants.
Session 1 – What Is Mental Illness?
Session 2 – Schizophrenia
Session 3 – Mood & Anxiety Disorder
Session 4 – Coping as a Family: Part 1
Session 5 – Coping as a Family: Part 2
Session 6 – Treating Mental Illness
Session 7 – Understanding the Mental Health System
Session 8 – Mental Illness, Addictions, & Criminal Justice
Session 9 – Living With Mental Illness
Session 10 – Striving For Change: Advocacy
Welcome to the BCSS Strengthening Families Together-First Nations program. This is a pilot project in its second year.
Strengthening Families Together-First Nations is about more than education; it is about strengthening family members and friends of individuals with a serious mental illness by providing support, awareness, and tools in a culturally safe environment. It’s about sharing our family stories, walking the journey together and moving forward with renewed strength, hope and understanding.
Support: Families have an opportunity to share the daily challenges they face; they can learn how to connect with others and gain a sense of belonging within the group; they learn from each other that they are not alone on this journey.
Awareness: Families gain access to reliable and consistent information about mental illness and mental health services; they also develop an understanding of recovery and of the impact of stigma.
Tools: Families are equipped with problem solving, coping, advocacy, and communication skills.
Cultural Safety: Facilitators are trained family members from the community with lived experience. The program is adaptable for traditional cultural practices to be included and honored. Elders are encouraged to participate at any capacity depending upon the community.
The family can play a significant role in promoting the recovery of their family member. But, in order to do so, the family too requires education, support, and inclusion in the therapeutic process.
This program is an education and advocacy program, one that helps family and/or friends become a personal advocate for their loved one. Learning to be a strategic personal advocate is key to navigating the mental health system, ensuring access to programs, services and supports.
This program was revised by the BC Schizophrenia Society (BCSS) and is offered to First Nations and aboriginal people across the province. The course is offered at no cost to facilitators or participants. All BCSS programs are supported by individual donations; corporate, foundation or government grants; and sponsorships. Under no circumstances will participants pay for this course. BCSS does allow for participants to make a donation to the Foundation.
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