My first experience in a mental health support program

I recently attended the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Education for Families program. It was a transformative experience for me in discovering a safe place to connect with others and learn about supporting people with mental illness.

During the six-week program, we were given ample time to share our stories which was part of the healing process for each of us who had felt losses or stress related to dealing with a family member’s mental illness. The facilitators even added an extra week of class to allow more time for us to tell our stories and learn from our collective experiences rather than sticking to a rigid curriculum.

I took many things away from the facilitators and the course material but also from my classmates who had some courageous stories of enduring through difficult times. Today I’m feeling very grateful and indebted to these people who are all working so hard and with such compassion and commitment for their loved ones. Many were supporting their children with mental illnesses, ranging in ages from 10 to mid-40’s. More than one was feeling completely done in.

At the start of the class I almost wanted to “shut up” as I felt my concerns were so small compared to others in the room.

As the weeks passed it became clear that we all were there to learn from the facilitators as well as from each other. All of our stories mattered.

I have permission from many of the participants to talk about their stories and hope to write more. For now, I just wanted to share some of the words that were expressed at the end of the class because we can all learn from them. These are paraphrased, as I didn’t want to disrespect my classmates by writing furiously while they were sharing so generously:

I know now that this is real, that I’m allowed to feel this way and that there are things I can try to do to make things better for my husband and my family.

Thank-you for creating a safe place and allowing us the time to share our stories. That’s been as important as the curriculum in helping us to heal from the grief and loss we might be feeling as a result of our family member’s mental illness.

I feel like I’m not alone in dealing with this. It’s been incredible to hear about some of the things other people are doing to support their family members.

I have lots of new ideas about what I can do to support my son. I was done in, but now I have more hope.

The program will be offered again and I’ll be sure to post the dates when they’re available. Highly recommend!

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