Coping with a mental health crisis in the family

Coping with a mental health crisis in the family

CORNWALL, Ontario – A long-running free program returns to Cornwall with a slew of mental health tools and practical information for family caregivers.

Developed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Cornwall & District Family Support Group’s Family-to-Family Education Program will start Thursday, March 31, and last 11 weeks.

Taught by local volunteers with first-hand experience dealing with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression in their family, the course provides insights on the mental illnesses themselves, treatments, advocacy, and most importantly – self-care.

“We’ve been offering the NAMI program here in Cornwall for the past ten years,” said co-facilitator Karen Paavila, “and it’s meeting a very real need.”

In 2015, the Cornwall Community Hospital’s caseload for its Inpatient and Community Mental Health programs exceeded 4,800 patients, nearly 300 were from Glengarry County.

“The reality is: this course makes a huge difference in people’s lives, including my own family’s,” said program organizer and peer volunteer James Joyce.

He credits the one-night-a-week program for helping him and his wife “retain their sanity” as their then-teen son struggled with mental health issues.

“Through the course we were able to finally better understand what he was experiencing and how to relate,” said Joyce. “He has made great strides and is currently earning a PhD in biology.”

During the classes, which run from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., participants will learn: how to talk with relatives who are mentally ill; how to deal with feelings of guilt; symptoms, diagnoses, medications, and side effects; and how to cope with crises, relapses, and much more.

“There’s no barriers, anyone can take the course, all the materials are provided, and participants take away a binder full of information, which becomes a resource book for dealing with their loved ones mental illness,” said Joyce.

Register ahead of time by calling Suzanne at the Cornwall Community Hospital’s Addictions and Mental Health office at 613-936-9236.

Joyce said it doesn’t take long before all 15-17 spots are filled.

For more information about the non-government funded, volunteer-led Cornwall & District Family Support Group, visit

Share this article