RECOVERY TRANSITION FOR CARERS
The Recovery Transition Program acknowledges that the community is the context in which we live and that recovery from mental illness and addiction relies on the support of families and friends. An important step before discharge is learning skills that will be needed, and seeing that others have succeeded in making this transition back into a meaningful life. The Peer Mentor Program aims to do this. Peer mentors are individuals who have gone through the process of having a mental illness or addiction and have found ways to create a new lifestyle that keeps them well. They generously offer to share their experiences, hope, and encouragement to others who are transitioning back to the community.
What about the families and friends whose lives have often been greatly affected by this journey?
- In the past, parents were often blamed for causing mental illness. Now, we know that the behaviours of children can have a reciprocal effect on parents and families as well. (1)
- Some families have removed themselves from the loved one, in order to preserve their own lives.
- Families have felt stigmatized along with their loved ones and were often excluded from the treatment process. Over the last decades, the closure of long-term facilities has transformed the family into a valuable resource. However, “support for families to help fulfill their caregiving responsibilities and sustain the integrity of their own well-being” has not been integrated into the health care system. (2)
In response, the Mental Health Commission of Canada published in 2013 “National Guidelines for a Comprehensive Service System to Support Family Caregivers of Adults with Mental Health Problems and Illnesses.” In this study, families expressed the following needs:
- “To know that their relative is receiving appropriate care and has access to the services and supports that will maximize their potential for quality of life.
- To receive information and timely support from knowledgeable health service providers, including enhancing their coping skills, so they can effectively provide care to their relative.
- To have their relationships and caregiving roles recognized by mental health service providers and to be meaningfully involved in assessment and treatment planning.
- To have their personal needs outside of their caregiving role recognized and supported to sustain their own health and emotional well- being.” (3)
How do Patients and Caregivers in our System Understand Their Needs?
A member of our RTP Family Committee undertook to ask some family members and patients about their ideas in a crowd-sourcing survey. (4)
- Communication was an issue. Both parties were hesitant to make comments that could provoke anxiety or anger. One family said it helped them to discuss touchy issues in the presence of the treating staff who could act as a “catalyst.” Having this service relieved them of illness-focused talks or conflicts at home.
- Patients did not always want to have intimate discussions with family, preferring to have a more objective person they could talk with.
- Patients were sensitive to having their personal boundaries invaded: they wanted to be accepted, to be respected and to have space.
- Family wanted to know how to handle their feelings of frustration, anger, and helplessness without taking it out on their loved one.
- Family wanted to be informed about community resources for their loved one and for themselves.
- Family wanted to know signs and symptoms of impending relapse and how to address these. Rather than general answers, they wanted to know specific behaviours of their loved one and have these discussed prior to discharge. After discharge, the family wanted to have a contact person who knew their loved one, who they could call if questions arose.
What can families do to help their loved one and themselves?
The MUHC Mental Health Mission has chosen for its recent theme in standards for care a focus on the participation of the patient and family in the delivery of care. Wherever possible, the family or involved friend becomes a partner in the treatment team. There are also opportunities for family members to participate in the planning and evaluation of services.
Another initiative is to have individualized treatment plans for each patient that will help provide continuity of care as patients and families travel through the health care system:
1. Learn about the illness/ disorder and how your loved one is affected. You can contribute to their treatment plan, its evaluation, and the discharge plan.
2. Learn about confidentiality concerns and guidelines for your participation in the treatment process. These vary according to the attitude of the person being treated.
The above information is best supplied by the healthcare provider looking after your loved one.
3. All families/ friends can receive invaluable individual and group education, information, support and the learning of new skills at AMI-QUEBEC. Families have their own process of recovery and often benefit from the experience of other family members. Visit their website at amiquebec.org, or call (514) 486-1448.
4. Family members and friends of those treated at the Griffith Edwards House or the Allan Memorial Institute are most welcome to visit the drop-in RTP resource centres at each site where you can speak with a volunteer and learn about resources.
1. Ambert, Anne- Marie PHD. “ The Effect of Children on Parents”. Haworth Press, New York, London. 1992. 2nd edition in 2001.
2. MacCourt Penny MSW, PhD and the Family Caregivers Advisory Committee Mental Health Commission of Canada. “NATIONAL GUIDELINES FOR A COMPREHENSIVE SERVICE SYSTEM TO SUPPORT FAMILY CAREGIVERS OF ADULTS WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS AND ILLNESSES.” 2013. http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca pp. 1
3. Ibid. p3.
4. Results of Crowd-Sourcing on April 7, 2016. By Michael Menezes.
Resources for family support
AMI-Quebec: An Organization for Families of Those with Mental Illnesses
Gives education/support and advocates for families and friends living with mental illness. Offers individual counselling, group seminars, and lectures for family members. Visit their website, where they have a long and updated list of community resources and publications for families and friends. Look under “External Resources.”
Phone: (514) 486-1448
Address: 5800 Decarie Street, Montreal, Quebec H3X 2J5
Friends for Mental Health: An organization to help families
This organization provides help for families of those with a mental illness. They offer counselling, referrals and information, self-help, and respite.
Phone: (514) 636-6885
Address: 750 Dawson Avenue, Dorval, Quebec H9S 1X1
Here to Help: Mental Health and Substance Use Information You Can Trust
This excellent website is part of the Fraser Mental Health and Substance Use Service. The link provided below will take you to the opening page, where you can click on the Family section. Believing that “families are part of the solution,” there is information about psychiatric disorders and an extensive toolkit informing families how they can support the recovery of their loved one. This site is offered in 12 languages: Arabic, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Farsi/Persian/Dari, French, English, Spanish, Russian, Korean, Punjabi, Japanese, and Vietnamese.
Information and Support Guide for Families and Friends of individuals with Mental Health Problems: A Booklet
Contains information on organizations of mental health services in Quebec, confidentiality and professional privilege, and a section entitled “practical advice.”
Tracom Crisis Center
For psychosocial crises and help for adults, including family members and caregivers. They also have beds where people can stay for short periods. Help by phone is available 24/7.
Phone: (514) 483-3033
Address: 5469 Côte-Saint-Antoine Road, Montreal, Quebec H4A 1R1
Villa de la Paix Rehabilitation Center
For 18 plus. Includes day programs for addictions and a family support program.
Phone: (450) 882-4554
Address: 1601 Rochon Street, Chertsey, Quebec J0K 3K0
Website (French only): villadelapaix.ca