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Never Underestimate the Power of Partnerships

Partnerships key and should never be underestimated

If you asked families who are struggling to cope with mental illness how many partners they have in dealing with these complex issues, my guess is that many of them would probably laugh, literally out loud, and reply with something along the lines of - "as soon as anyone finds out my family is dealing with mental illness, they turn their backs on me, definitely they do not link arms with me to support me in my journey". Too often families face barrier after barrier in an attempt to get services and care, and they feel that every door has some secret code of criteria that they just never seem to meet. It isn't just in finding services for their children or youth either, it is in the school system, in their work place, in their personal life, with their extended families, in the media, everywhere we turn there seems to be a need to quiet the voice of families speaking out and trying to raise awareness about their child or youth specifically and about the issues in general. Consequently, I feel we as family members tend to jump to "battle mode", for years we have been fighting and demanding someone stand up and take notice of what is going on with our child and youth, and when the cooperative and collaborative approach seems to get us nowhere we resort to demanding, and insisting. More often than not, this has been the approach that has finally seen results, so instead of spending time with the collaborative efforts, we often are programmed to go right to the demanding and insisting. It is a complex balance beam we travel in learning where demanding and insisting where get us where we need to be, and where cooperation is going to be best. Wouldn't it be nice if we could say collaboration and cooperation is always the best approach and more likely to get us where we all need to be? While it would be nice, that is unfortunately not the case.

But this month is about partnerships and their importance, and please don't get me wrong, I support fully partnerships, collaboration, and cooperation, and the work I have done with PCMH and my daughter has been profoundly affected by the partnerships I have been fortunate enough to have forged, and in most cases, would not have been able to accomplish without. Families will not be successful in their journey on a road to recovery for themselves or their loved ones without partnerships, of this I am sure. It is impossible to do this alone, although sometime we feel completely alone and isolated, if we do not come together both in our personal journeys and in our more global efforts to be participants of change, we simply will not succeed.

Families must look at the "clinical team" as partners, partners in wellness for your children. You, the family, are the integral component of this team and partnership. Without you and your expertise the treatment and recovery process will not reach its maximum potential. Not only must you partner with the "clinical team", partner with you child, youth, loved one. Join them in their battle and let them know you are walking down that road to recovery arm in arm with them, equal partner, ready to fight when they need, be silent when that is best, and support them if they need to lean on you - all without condition. As much as we feel isolated in our role as a family member, we cannot imagine how isolating it must feel for those who suffer. You may also need to be the link between those two partnerships - the partnership of you and your loved one and the clinical team, you may need to act as a bridge at times between the two, and to do that you must be fully engaged with each. Invest yourself in the planning and implementation of the therapy, invest yourself in learning the needs of your loved one, and bring the two together so that your loved one can truly reach their full potential and gain the most from their treatment course.

Oh sure you might be saying, I have to work, I have to deal with my other children, I am constantly having to attend meetings etc and now you are saying invest MORE time? I honestly think that initially yes it will take some extra time, but in the end it will actually alleviate the pressure, building your partnerships within the team (any team whether it be the educational team supporting your child, the clinical team, the respite team) will actually allow the level of stress to subside and your ability to cope increase. But yes, it is stressful, and at times can take up more time than you feel you may have, which is why you yourself need to build partnerships dedicated to supporting you! Caregiver fatigue is real, and the toll it takes is devastating. So you must protect yourself and surround yourself with your own team - a team that has been where you are, that understands without many words how you are feeling, what you need to cope, why you are stressed, what your heart is feeling. Support groups and membership to organizations like Parents for Children's Mental Health provides an opportunity for you to strengthen your own team, a team that very often feels like a team of one, and you need partnerships and you need to learn from others' journeys, and the best way to do that is to link and network with people who are in the same position as you, who have travelled the road you now try to navigate. By partnering with others you gain strength, support, and skills that without that partnership you would not have.

Outside of the partnerships we HAVE to develop if we are to successfully lead our loved ones on the road to recovery, we all have a responsibility to partner to ensure that the crisis of child and youth mental health is addressed in this Province. Whether you are directly caring for a child or youth or not, it is our responsibility to partner with each and be the voice for all our children so that they are treated equitably and given the same opportunities. On August 26th, 2010, The Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions held a Press Conference releasing their Final Report and Recommendations "Navigating the Journey to Wellness". The report came from a partnership of MPPs, from across party lines, where the issue was greater than the politics. The report was formed on the foundation of partnership, and a partnership of unlikely partners in most instances. The crisis that our Province faces with Mental Health demanded that a strong partnership and collaboration was required if those who suffer were to be truly kept at the centre of the recommendations made, and that is what was done. They have done their job, it is now time for us to do ours. The recommendations will not be worth the paper they are written on if no action is taken to put them into place. The Committee cannot make it happen - BUT WE CAN. All of us must partner together, join our voices, and demand that this report become a priority and the recommendations within it become a priority and that each party, regardless of who is in power make a firm commitment to repairing the damage that has been done to our mental health system for decades.

If there is going to be a difference made, it will be us, the public, the voices for our children, who will see to it. This is not a time to sit back and celebrate what the committee has produced, as commendable as it is, it is a time for us to celebrate their work by seeing it through. We are the partnership to implementation, we are the driving force to action.

The committee members themselves acknowledge that the work is now in our hands, and without our commitment, the recommendations could risk remaining just that - recommendations.

"Governments do what people allow them to do. These are complex issues and people avoid what is difficult to do. The more vocal we become the more aware the government will become!
Kevin Flynn, Chair, Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions

Never underestimate the power of partnerships on the journey to wellness, as even the most seemingly invalid partnerships can become the one partner that made all the difference. It is incumbent on all of us to partner in this fight against mental illness, we must link arms, join voices, and commit to fighting with the same vigor and commitment that we fight for wellness in those who suffer physical illness.

The I in Illness represents isolation....The key letters in wellness is WE.

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Posted: Tuesday May 15, 2018 04:05 PM

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