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Caregiver / Family Member Reference Panel

The Provincial Government, in November 2014, has tasked a group of 20 Mental Health Care individuals to sit on a Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council, to advise the Minister on a comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy to be introduced sometime in 2017. The focus is on 5 main areas:

  • Community Mental Health & Addictions Funding Reform
  • System Alignment within the Government’s Ministries
  • Youth Addictions
  • Mental Health Promotion, Prevention and Early Intervention
  • Supportive Housing

In an attempt to provide lived-experience input to support their work, the council has created two additional panels each consisting of 20 members. One panel is comprised of people who have mental health or addiction illnesses and the other panel, of which I am a member, is comprised of men and women who are Caregivers or Family Members of people with mental health illnesses or suffer from an addiction.
To date we have had three meetings. Our task is to review the work of the Council and provide feedback from the point of view of people who use mental health and addiction services in Ontario. The mandate of the Caregiver/Family Member Reference Panel is not to reach consensus but to ensure important aspects from a mental health or addictions sufferer perspective are not overlooked by the Council, or to possibly introduce aspects not previously considered. Basically, we provide information that the Council could find useful or enlightening which may then be incorporated into the strategy. Our next meeting is scheduled for November.
I applied for the position on the Caregiver/Family Member Reference Panel for a number of reasons. Obviously there is still a stigma surrounding individuals who suffer from an addiction or mental illness. Sympathy for someone diagnosed with cancer is unconditional, and correctly so, however, someone diagnosed with a mental illness or addiction is often looked on as a failing of the individual, not as an illness outside of their control. As awareness grows, individuals suffering from mental illness are reaching out for help, and the numbers are staggering. Family Members especially find themselves caught up in a system under-equipped to handle this epidemic. Navigating through the Health Care system, Education System, Housing, Taxation and other Government agencies is a minefield. After 13 years of personal experience, and I won’t bore you with the many stories both good and bad, but mostly bad, and some real doozies, I thought I might be able to contribute in some small way. This opportunity came along and I am excited to be part of the Panel. Also, from a Neurological aspect, it is very interesting to see the advances on the knowledge of the brain and how it functions. There are some major developments on the horizon, not only supporting physical abnormalities in the brain, but new treatments to correct or reverse the condition as well.

By Brian L.