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Self-Discovery and Recovery Series sheds light on mental illness

By Celina Ip

On July 12 at the Pembroke Public Library, a dozen participants attended the first session of the Self-Discovery and Recovery Series that aims to inform caregivers who are looking to support their friend or loved one dealing with a mental illness. Pictured here is Schizophrenia Society of Ontario volunteer Philip Kupferschmidt who delivered a presentation in which he focused on the topic of diagnosis, personal meaning and coping strategies.

On July 12 at the Pembroke Public Library, a dozen participants attended the first session of the Self-Discovery and Recovery Series that aims to inform caregivers who are looking to support their friend or loved one dealing with a mental illness. Pictured here is Schizophrenia Society of Ontario volunteer Philip Kupferschmidt who delivered a presentation in which he focused on the topic of diagnosis, personal meaning and coping strategies.

PEMBROKE - 

Local organizations are hosting a Self-Discovery and Recovery Series to shed light on mental illness and to inform caregivers who are looking to support their friend or loved one.

 

With free sessions taking place throughout the summer, the series is organized by Mental Health Services of Renfrew County, the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, the Royal Ottawa, the Mental Illness Caregivers’ Association and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

On July 12, a dozen participants attended the first session that was hosted at the Pembroke Public Library’s boardroom.

The session featured a presentation by speaker Philip Kupferschmidt (event facilitator and volunteer with the Schizophrenia Society) in which he focused on the topic of diagnosis, personal meaning and coping strategies.

When it comes to coping with depression, Kupferschmidt expressed that the challenge is often about remaining engaged enough so as to not obsesses about negative feelings while also resting enough to not become exhausted.

When coping with mania, he shared that it’s about trying not to ride the high no matter how tempting it might be, as your manic self is not your best self.

“You need to know what cools you down and what picks you up – something you learn over time,” said Kupferschmidt. “In the meantime, you should stay close to people who know your patterns and do something constructive with any extra agitation and energy that you might have.”

Finally, when faced with schizophrenia, Kupferschmidt shared that the best form of coping is to dig into positive activities that promote self-discovery.

“Perhaps more than any of the others, schizophrenia requires a radical self-discovery. So it’s important to find activities, ideas, life patterns and passions that go beyond isolating thought patterns. You need to counter de-personalization with personal journey, counter isolation with regular caring engagement and counter bodily distress with care for the body,” he stressed.

Overall, when it comes to coping with a mental illness, Kupferschmidt said that the most beneficial strategy is to engage in personal and meaningful activities while continuing to “fight the good fight”.

We need to treasure life and share it with others. And it needs to mean something to us so that we have a reason to get up in the morning – maybe that reason is your family or maybe it's work,” he said.

Kupferschmidt’s informative presentation was followed by an open discussion where attendees had the opportunity to ask questions about mental health resources offered in the region and to voice their ideas and concerns about how support for mental health caregivers can be improved.

Many of the participants echoed the same concern of there being limited mental health resources in the region – with a six month or longer wait-time in order to just book the first consultation with a general practitioner.

Kupferschmidt and the other mental health representatives agreed with the participants’ concerns and encouraged them to reach out to therapists in the region and to make use of all of the other resources that are available to them, in the meantime.

Among those resources is a free 10-week course for caregivers of persons with a mental illness, being offered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) this fall.

The NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program is geared towards caregivers of people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar illness, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, personality disorder or who exhibits behaviours that strongly suggest one of these diagnoses. The course is not appropriate for individual who are themselves suffering from one of these mental illnesses.

According to NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program director Madeleine Bertrand, the course discusses the clinical treatment of serious mental illnesses and teaches the knowledge and skills that family members, partners and friends need to cope more effectively.

“These courses are for everyone who is supporting that person so that they understand the illness, the symptoms going on with them and to help them through difficult periods and be of support to their loved one,” said Bertrand. “It's been reported that people with mental illness do better when they are supported by loved ones – they have less relapses and less crises. So we’re trying to get families, friends and caregivers to take these courses in order to better support them.”

For more information on Self-Discovery and Recovery Series as well as for information on the NAMI 10-week series, contact Juliet Haynes at 613-722-6521 ext. 7573

cip@postmedia.com