My health outlook
Our daughter Candace was
diagnosed with bipolar disorder at
age 22. After that, our family was
uncertain about what to do. We didn’t
understand mental illness, and we
didn’t know what was ahead of us.
Candace was in her third year
at university, in nursing, and her
professor suggested we call the
Calgary branch of the Canadian
Mental Health Association (CMHA).
I did that right away.
That was 18 years ago. And since
then we’ve learned how to work
through problems with her, rather than
the family always saying we’ve got to
The psychiatrist works along with
us too, and we all chip in when those
tough times happen. Lots of times
Candace doesn’t have to go to the
hospital when these episodes happen—
we have the skills to help her. My belief
is that the more families can learn
these skills, the better chance they have
of handling mental health concerns,
and reducing stress on the health-care
Candace knows support is there, and
it helps her to keep moving forward.
Her bipolar disorder is part of our
lives, but it doesn’t determine what life
is all about. We can move forward and
carry on with our own lives every day,
and have peace, happiness and joy.
Shortly after Candace’s diagnosis, I
went back to the CMHA and said “we
need something for families, because
we’re not the only ones going through
this.” We were very fortunate to have
the CMHA champion the idea. A staff
member and I developed a six-week
psycho-educational program called
Family Support to give families the
skills they need in order to support
A Calgary family’s journey to help their daughter cope with bipolar disorder
their loved ones.
Realizing families need more
help, we also developed a weekly
family peer support group and I was
contracted to oversee it.
Mental illnesses have many
different symptoms, but they have a
lot in common when it comes to what
families can do to help and support a
loved one living with a mental illness.
What I really hope is that more
attention is paid to families. They need
help as much as the ill person does.
— as told to Jacqueline Louie
For more about CMHA—Calgary’s
Family Support program, visit
“Candace’s bipolar disorder is part of our lives, but it doesn’t determine what life is all about,”
says mother Mona Cooley.