My health outlook
Our daughter Candace wasdiagnosed with bipolar disorder atage 22. After that, our family wasuncertain about what to do. We didn’tunderstand mental illness, and wedidn’t know what was ahead of us.
Candace was in her third yearat university, in nursing, and herprofessor suggested we call theCalgary branch of the CanadianMental Health Association (CMHA).I did that right away.
That was 18 years ago. And sincethen we’ve learned how to workthrough problems with her, rather thanthe family always saying we’ve got tofix this.
The psychiatrist works along withus too, and we all chip in when thosetough times happen. Lots of timesCandace doesn’t have to go to thehospital when these episodes happen—we have the skills to help her. My beliefis that the more families can learnthese skills, the better chance they haveof handling mental health concerns,and reducing stress on the health-caresystem.
Candace knows support is there, andit helps her to keep moving forward.Her bipolar disorder is part of ourlives, but it doesn’t determine what lifeis all about. We can move forward andcarry on with our own lives every day,and have peace, happiness and joy.
Shortly after Candace’s diagnosis, Iwent back to the CMHA and said “weneed something for families, becausewe’re not the only ones going throughthis.” We were very fortunate to havethe CMHA champion the idea. A staffmember and I developed a six-weekpsycho-educational program calledFamily Support to give families theskills 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 morehelp, we also developed a weeklyfamily peer support group and I wascontracted to oversee it.
Mental illnesses have manydifferent symptoms, but they have alot in common when it comes to whatfamilies can do to help and support aloved one living with a mental illness.
What I really hope is that moreattention is paid to families. They needhelp as much as the ill person does.
— as told to Jacqueline Louie
For more about CMHA—Calgary’sFamily Support program, visitcmha.calgary.ab.ca.
“Candace’s bipolar disorder is part of our lives, but it doesn’t determine what life is all about,”
says mother Mona Cooley.