I have worked in the mental health field for more than 25 years.
This past Sunday I had a chance to learn more about an “invisible” support system in our community for people with mental health concerns, psychiatric conditions and mental illnesses.
I saw all the passion, sorrow and hope in this special group of folks, gathered for an information sharing event at the Ramada Convention Centre, Oct 18.
I met families and loved ones, a room full of strength and support for many of the clients I have worked with over the years. It was humbling to realize just how very important they are in the care team and, yet, not accessed often enough by we in the clinical part of the team.
It was an afternoon of information, humour, sharing and connection to celebrate families and supporters and highlight some of the services available for them in the area and pretty perfect for their own support as the full-time part of the care team. The hall was full of tables with printed information on support ideas, yoga, essential oils, crafts and more.
There were a couple of participation stations where people could share best mental health strategies and sources of comfort.
Yes pets rate highly as preferred comforts.
We were honoured to have an opening prayer and a Shuswap welcoming song by Elder Virginia Gilbert from Williams Lake Indian Band.
The main organizer, Danarae Latin from Exposed Expressions Tattoo Studio explained that it was all about the silent majority of the care team, the family members and loved ones. “I had to do it,” Danarae said.
It was time, she explained, to acknowledge and show an understanding of their experiences and the very real need “out there” for support programs and care-for-the-caregiver services they truly deserve.
“My mother is my motivation for the day” Danarae said. Her wish is that all members of the care team, including willing families, who probably know their loved ones better than anyone else, be included and their contributions respected.
As a tattoo artist Danarae has jumped onto a national campaign to use the semi-colon symbol (;) as a sign of support for those having mental health challenges and their supports that means the same as it does in any use – the story isn’t over yet, there’s more to come.
Since suicide is one of the tragedies families must deal with in their caring, it is thought that a simple semi-colon might become a significant sign of support. Danarae has designed 100 or more semi-colon variations that add even more significance and she is donating the proceeds from these tattoos to the fund set up to supply comfort measures for those with mental health issues as so many have very limited incomes.
During the event there was also a silent auction, raffle, and prizes to raise funds for the cause.
Cindy Charleyboy was there to represent one of the biggest family support organizations in the province – the B.C. Schizophrenia Society.
She is the newly-hired program and services manager who has volunteered for 16 years in our local BCSS program and now has an opportunity to utilize her experiences to develop and strengthen support resources for families all over B.C. BCSS helps clients and families/loved ones who are challenged by any of the mental illnesses, not just schizophrenia.
As a long-time member of the professional part of mental health teams in the Cariboo-Chilcotin for more than 20 years, I spoke about the importance of these partnerships with all members of the team.
We absolutely need each other.
Single parts of the team can never do all that can be done collectively. Everyone can contribute. Stay tuned for next year’s event, everyone – we all know someone who would benefit from some support!
Colleen Crossley, RN, BSN works as a mental health clinician in the lakecity.