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Laura lives with her husband and their 20-year-old daughter. Since their daughter was very young, they noticed indications that she struggled with her emotions and with relationships. They began a search for effective support that left them feeling frustrated, disillusioned and helpless. Despite this, they persisted in their advocacy and in educating themselves about their daughter’s needs. Most recently, they have benefitted from the help and education offered by Durham Mental Health Services’ Family Support Program. Here is their story:

From an early age, we noticed our daughter was unique the way she responded to people, but we figured she was just a spirited child. For example if asked her, “Can you clean up your room?” she might look at me blankly, grab a cup and throw it so it smashed. Also, our daughter’s daycare reported that she in was in conflict with some of the other children. So the concerns were there early.

We thought that with loving attention and care, we could help our daughter resolve these issues; however, the concerning behaviour only grew worse. On her first day of school, she literally climbed out of the classroom window in order to escape – thank goodness it was the first floor. Both at that time and throughout her adolescence, she struggled with powerful painful emotions that were too much for her to handle – anger and anxiety especially. As my daughter grew, I wanted to learn as much as I could about what she was experiencing and how I could help. I studied natural nutrition, I learned everything about I could about learning disabilities, I began practicing meditation. I also learned about Wraparound, a powerful process that I know would have helped but unfortunately was not offered in Durham Region. We sought as much information as we could get about what was offered through the local helping system. We met a lot of exceptionally dedicated service providers, trying their best to function in a dysfunctional and fragmented system. We sometimes felt that services could have been better coordinated.

For example, after seeing a psychiatrist, you stand outside the office with a diagnosis and a prescription, blindsided and thinking, “What am I supposed to do?” You’re also in denial – “This can’t be happening to my child.” The expression “Pills don’t teach skills” is so true, but we had no idea where to turn.

I had long known about Durham Mental Health Services, but my daughter was too young to be eligible for service. We experienced major struggles at this time, to the point where my husband’s and my own mental health were in jeopardy – not too mention our deteriorating physical health; stress is a killer.

When I met with the DMHS Family Support worker, I felt like she understood our struggles, that she cared, and that she was ready, willing and able to support us. She took the time to really understand our unique personal story – we definitely felt respected and heard, and we felt hopeful about the future for the first time in ages.

When I saw the types of education they offered – including Wellness Recovery Action Planning – I was impressed. For the first time ever, we felt like we saw her struggles through her eyes. This again gave us hope that we could support her more effectively.

I feel like the key to helping our loved ones who are struggling with mental illness is education, understanding, and prevention. If you are thinking about calling for DMHS support, stop thinking about it and just call – they can help you get the education and support that you need, and in so doing, help you take back some control over what’s happening in your life. You don’t have to do this alone.

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