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Given the stigma and silence associated with mental illness, family members of people in mental health crisis often have to struggle on their own, without accurate information or adequate support. DMHS’ Family Support program helps families get the information and support they need. Here is one person’s account of the help his family received from the DMHS Family Support program.

I located a toll free number for Durham Mental Health Services last year when I became very concerned about my son’s illness. I had looked on the internet for information which was informative, but what I really wanted to was talk to someone who could listen and shed some light and what my son and we were going through.

When I called I reached the DMHS C.A.L.L. Centre line online. The Crisis Worker I connected with was very helpful. I told him I was looking for group support and he put me in touch with Denise. She told me about the weekly Family Support meetings. Before deciding to attend I met with Denise. She listened well and I could tell she was genuinely interested.

I began attending weekly DMHS Family Support meetings last fall. I found them so hopeful. Each week we shared as we were comfortable to do so. In addition, there was usually a “topic” for the session, there were also some guest speakers. The group offers different ways to look at things, a lot of hope and good suggestions. Emphasis was on supporting and listening. I met a lot of very nice people and being able to talk to them provided real life experiences that I could learn from and helped to me open up and talk about my son’s illness which had been very difficult for me. I looked forward to the sessions, I would take questions, concerns and share successes. I did grow stronger from the experience. I was able to share the information I learned with my wife.

I never knew how much time recovery could take and that it would be so difficult. There is no quick fix. I learned to be a better listener and I am far more patient than I was before, but without being a door mat. I feel my son is in a healthy environment right now. I don’t know where he will be in two years, but I am hopeful that things are moving in a positive direction and I feel better equipped to cope and support him as he continues to better understand himself.

Denise did spend time focusing on the importance on the health, body, mind and soul, of the caregiver and this has been valuable. I recognized that his health concerns were affecting my own relationships, now I am mindful of that and work on these with all people in my life.

I don’t attend weekly groups anymore. Denise does hold a monthly meeting for “Alumni” which I do attend. The members are genuinely interested in what’s going on in each other’s lives. Denise shares helpful readings and support. She is so experienced in what she does and has a knack for finding the right thing to say at the right time. It is not just me, but so many in the group have benefited from Denise’s advice and support. All these things truly make a difference.

I am glad to have come across this organization and I do share the fact that the service exists with others.

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