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Schizophrenia Society expands into corridor

New outreach co-ordinator enables services for families of people with serious mental illness

Sea to Sky families coping with members suffering from serious mental illness now have further support with the addition of a new corridor outreach co-ordinator, a position created through the North Shore Schizophrenia Society (NSSS).

"We've wanted to establish this position in the Sea to Sky for four or five years, but only now have been able to manage it," said NSSS president Herschel Hardin. "It's gratifying to know that families in the Sea to Sky with mentally ill relatives will now have easier access to our programs."

Whistler resident Christine Buttkus, who is also known for her involvement with the Sea to Sky Community Services Society and Communities That Care among other non-profit organizations, takes over the new outreach role.

"Given the geography of the corridor, we need to hear from people about their support needs so we can determine when, where and how best to help," said Buttkus. "We don't want anyone to have to struggle in isolation."

NSSS, based at its Family Support Centre in West Vancouver, covers all serious mental illnesses along with schizophrenia, including bipolar disorder, major depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and borderline personality disorder.

Since the spring of 2008, it has offered a family support group in Squamish. It hopes to now provide the Family-to-Family education course in Squamish starting in the New Year, according to a news release.

The NSSS Sea to Sky initiative brings availability of some key programs closer to home for those members from Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton who travel to West Vancouver for programs. One-on-one peer support and crisis counselling continues to be available by telephone.

The free services are led by volunteers with special training who have first-hand experience with the challenges of having a family member living with a serious mental illness, states the release, thus NSSS's slogan, Families Helping Families.

In the North Shore and Sea to Sky, 1,750 have schizophrenia and 3,850 suffer from bipolar disorder. Including depression and anxiety disorders, 42,000 people on the North Shore and Sea-to-Sky will personally experience a mental illness at least once during their lifetime. Add affected family members and the picture emerges that a significant segment of the population are impacted.

For more information about programs, services and upcoming education events, contact Christine at christine@northshoreschizophrenia.org, 604-932-7543 or 604-849-2252 or visit the NSSS website at northshoreschizophrenia.org. For information on the Sea to Sky Family Support Group, contact Sue at 604-898-9372 or by e-mail at sue@northshoreschizophrenia.org.