After spending half a century of her life working – and almost half of this time working with the BCSS family – it is time for Kim Dixon, our beloved Regional Manager of the Northern Interior Region, to move on to a new phase of life with newer possibilities. Our hearts are heavy and our arms are full with everything that Kim has given this organization over the years.

The entire BCSS team wishes her all the best for all that the future has in store for her. On her last working day at BCSS, read about her journey in her own words.

Kim Dixon's childhood photo
Kim Brandon (1956)

Mile Marker 66

As I reach mile marker 66 and begin to consider the next turn off in my life’s journey, a look in the rear view mirror reveals almost twenty-four years of travel with the FAMILIES of BCSS. In the beginning when I was lost I really needed a map – no GPS in those early days to help me find my way. I kicked up a lot of dust on that early dirt track until a sign showed up in 2000 that read “BC’s Adult Mental Health Division of the Ministry of Health Family Support & Involvement Best Practices” and steered me onto pavement.

My first stopover was St. Louis, Missouri for a 2002 “Best Practices” “National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Family Peer Support Group Facilitator” training event. Here I learned that family members go through normal, predictable emotional responses to the trauma of mental illness and the best way to provide effective support is to give families what they need when they need it – simple, but not always easy.

I travelled a long service road from 2005 through 2010 by the University of Northern BC studying the effectiveness of family interventions for families affected by mental illness. Research revealed that family members need the opportunity to work through their thought processes and emotional reactions through “Guidance Dialogues” with experienced, knowledgeable and competent “Family Peer Supporters” who can share their personal experience and provide guidance.
In 2010, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) identified the opportunity to transform the mental health system through the integration and promotion of Family Peer Support. Peer Support Canada (PSC) was created to carry on the work started by the MHCC, promoting the growth, recognition, and accessibility of family peer support. At the FAMILIES of BCSS we began travelling this new road in 2014 to become the only team of PSC Certified Family Peer Supporters [Mentors] in Canada having demonstrated national standards of practice for experience, knowledge and competencies.

After two decades of looking for signs to guide us towards “Family Support & Involvement Best Practice” the FAMILIES of BCSS has now drawn their own map found in the 2020 MHCC “Engaging [Family] Caregivers in Mental Health & Addictions in Canada: Promising Practices Guide.” FAMILIES Peer Specialists is the only example of a program that engages family caregivers throughout their entire journey of adaptation to the trauma of mental illness. With safe and effective family peer support families can successfully move into action and advocacy and come full circle in supporting other family members that follow.

Today I am finishing another leg of my journey with the FAMILIES of BCSS with the completion of both a 2020 Family Peer Supporter Training Guide (participant’s manual) and a 2021 Family Peer Support Mentor Resource Guide (facilitators manual) to support training for those who are ready to take over the wheel in driving “Family Support & Involvement Best Practice” forward. And, watch for the 2022 “Guidelines for the Practice of Family Peer Support©” virtual training coming soon for anyone with a ‘personal caring connection’ to another individual living with serious mental illness.

Written by Kim Dixon