By Krista MacKinnon
I’ve worked in the mental health system for twelve years now, and prior to that was a patient for three. My family was educated to believe that I would be sick my whole life, and that they should have very little hope for my future. When I became a family counsellor, I vowed to never “educate” anyone in such a way. Since then, I’ve watched “Recovery” grow from a subversive whisper to a full-blown growing paradigm in mental health services. Countries have adopted Recovery and implemented its model into their health care planning, academics have studied it and written thousands of articles in peer-reviewed journals, organizations have restructured and reorganized their teams to reflect it’s principles, and brave everyday people have told their personal recovery stories to friends, colleagues, conferences, and the media. Recovery is a strong political force, a narrative, a system, a way of life, and a tool. So why then, has this incredible force of “Recovery” not leaked its way over to Family Education? As far as we’ve come (and I mean that as a global community) why are our most intimate loved ones still being educated in old school reductionist ways of thinking about what gets called “mental illness” “Schizophrenia” or “Bipolar Disorder”? Why are there still support groups for families out there where the facilitator thinks it is perfectly okay for families to strategize and brainstorm together ways to sneak their loved ones their medications to “keep them well” or “prevent relapse”?
If a family wants to get an education in the medical model of mental illness including symptoms for and medications used to treat a particular psychiatric diagnosis, it is readily accessible. Groups gather all over the world eating cupcakes over curriculum that is old, and minimally helpful (or even downright harmful). Yet, if a family wants to get an education about what gets labelled as mental illness from a whole, critical, and broad perspective where can they turn?
I created the website Families Healing Together because I know we deserve better. Families deserve better, and so do those of us who have been, or are still being labelled as psychiatrically ill. Humans, generally speaking, don’t try to understand what they view as “alien” or “other”. Rooted in the work of Family Outreach and Response program in Toronto, the Recovering Our Families class educates and supports families to question what they know, it encourages them to focus on strengths rather than pathologies, it asks them to consider mental health on a continuum, it brings meaning to madness, and it offers communication and self-care healing tools. It also shares the wealth of work that has been done to create, implement, and spread the Recovery Model in useful and easy to understand ways.
If you know a family in need of thoughtful, helpful, and balanced education and support, please let them know about the Recovering Our Families online class. 8 weeks of support and education in a private online environment.
Next Start Date: October 28th