Friday, 15 September 2017 05:37

Cypress hosting workshop for people supporting loved ones through mental illness

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The Cypress Health Region is hosting a weekend workshop for family, friends and caregivers who are supporting individuals with mental illness.

The workshop will take place in Swift Current on Sept. 22 and 23. On the Friday evening there will be a two-hour session from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. It will continue on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The workshop is free of charge and refreshments will be provided, including breakfast and lunch on Saturday.
Participants will learn about community supports for individuals living with mental illness. They will receive information to increase their knowledge about mental illness and there will be a discussion about positive self-care strategies.
“Mental illnesses have a significant impact on families and significant members of a person's support system,” said Mary K Renwick, a community mental health nurse at Cypress Health Region. “So how well a person's support system manages and copes with the mental illness has a direct influence on how well a person lives with their recovery actually.”
An effective support system can make a real difference to an individual living with mental illness.
“It's like a spiderweb,” she said. “The stronger the connections and support, the stronger the overall recovery is.”
This workshop will give information to participants that will help them to develop a better understanding of their role as providers of support while also connecting them to others with similar experiences.
“Often when families and people of the support system are out there, they feel very isolated and alone and they don't realize that there are other people who have had similar experiences,” she said. “We just find that there's so much knowledge that can be shared amongst people and it really helps people to feel validated and not so alone, and it helps them cope.”
Barbara Golden, who is also a community mental health nurse at Cypress Health Region, noted that self-care strategies for those who support individuals with mental illness will be a key part of the discussion at the workshop.
“The biggest focus would be on self care of the care giver so that they are in a position to provide the support to the person with the illness,” she said. “We also cover some basic symptoms of the different illnesses and behaviours associated with that.”
An important consideration for a caregiver and those supporting a loved one with mental illness is their approach to providing that support.
“I think a theme that we've heard over and over again is that balance between supporting your loved one and enabling and controlling,” she said. “It's a real balancing act, because you love the person and you want them to make the right decisions, but they're adults.”
According to Renwick the stigma of mental illness still provides a significant challenge to family members of a person living with mental illness.
“It's stigma of mental illness and that whole process of what that means when an individual in your family has a mental illness and dealing with the stigma,” she said. “It's a process and often it's a self stigma that people have to get past first for themselves.”
This issue will also be discussed during the workshop. One of the benefits of the workshop will be the opportunity for participants to connect with others who are supporting individuals with mental illness. This is the fifth time that Cypress Health Region will present the workshop.
“People who have been to the workshops in the past, they come again,” she said. “We send out invitations to them as well again, and new people come on board and then we also have an ongoing group throughout the year.”
This family support group meets regularly throughout the year and actually started as a result of a previous weekend workshop.
“We try to give information and to build up networking amongst the group members because we just feel that there are resources for individuals with mental illnesses, if they chose to use those resources, but it's more difficult for families,” she said. “They also need to have a support system too.”
The two guest speakers at the workshop are Penni Caron and Cortney Reynolds. Caron is the director of mental health and additions in the Cypress Health Region and therefore responsible for administering the Mental Health Act.
“There are so many people that don't even realize that there is a Mental Health Act and that it is actually legislation that we use,” Golden said. “So that is going to be the point of her presentation.”
Reynolds is the executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) branch in Swift Current.
She will speak about the role of that organization, the support it provides to individuals with mental illness and their families, and the interaction between the CMHA and the health region.
There will also be a question and answer session with Dr. Vijaykumar Ashtekar, the health region's chief psychiatrist. Other workshop sessions will be facilitated by Golden and Renwick, while there will be opportunities for informal interaction and fellowship between workshop participants.
For more information about the workshop or to pre-register, call 1-877-329-0005.

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Matthew Liebenberg


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