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Help available for serious mental illness

Life-changing course established in Squamish

Imagine how it would feel if someone you loved started to change - stopped being able to function at work or school, lost their friends, withdrew from the world, became obsessed with paranoid ideas or spent way beyond their means on trivial items, falling into insurmountable debt. Any of these could be symptoms of a serious mental illness, which can be as debilitating as any physical injury or ailment.What would you do if it happened in your family? Would you know where to turn for help, education and support, or how to get treatment and services for your ill relative? Could you talk about it with friends, coworkers and other family members?The Family Support Centre, operated by the North Shore Schizophrenia Society, knows all about those questions.

The Sea to Sky Family Support Group meets in Squamish on the third Tuesday of each month, and is open to anyone with a mentally ill loved one, regardless of diagnosis or if they have even been diagnosed yet. The next meeting will be next Tuesday (March 17). If you are interested in attending, contact Sue at 604-898-9372.The Society, governed by family members themselves, is now extending some of its core programs to Squamish. All services and participation in programs is free of charge.Serious mental illness affects a lot of people: schizophrenia one per cent, bipolar disorder two per cent, depression 10 to 15 per cent. Yet many still believe they are somehow responsible for mental illness in themselves or their family, that others will judge them for being weak or having done something wrong. Behaviour is constantly judged and questions like "Why can't they just buck up and deal with their problems?" are whispered. People whose depression has left them unable to get out of bed are accused of using the illness as an excuse for being lazy.But a person with a mental illness can't will their symptoms away any more than a person with diabetes can control their blood sugar without insulin or a person with a broken leg can run a marathon.The good news is that there are people who have been through these battles and come out stronger - and they are willing to help. Take Sue, for example. One of Sue's children has a serious mental illness. When this family's journey through mental illness and the healthcare system began, they didn't know what to do or where to turn. They found help beyond the south end of the corridor, at the Family Support Centre in West Vancouver. The centre covers all serious mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety disorders. Sue drove the 55 kilometres to attend the support group every month, and for the Family-to-Family education course, taught over 12 Tuesday evenings. Like the people she went to for help, Sue gained experience and knowledge by living through it.Sue did some further training and became a support group facilitator so that families in Squamish didn't need to make that long drive to get help face-to-face.

The Family-to-Family education course will also be offered in Squamish for residents of the corridor. Covering everything from symptoms and medications to problem-solving, communications and self-care, the course is described by participants as a life-changing experience. To learn more about the Family Support Group and Family-to-Family education course, see Contact the Family Support Centre at 604-926-0856 or email

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