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Let's Talk Day: Why family support should be the heart of mental health treatment in B.C.
Abbotsford News - 1/29/2021
British Columbians – both patients and their loved ones – often say to Kathryn Embacher, "I wish I got help sooner."
As senior director of B.C.'s only inpatient facility for concurrent disorders, Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, the 41-year-old has seen patients receive care for nearly a decade.
The 41-year-old told Black Press Media many of them struggle coming to terms with needing professional help.
"It is as simple as saying they have a broken leg. If only they realized how common it is to have a mental illness – it's every one-in-five people," Embacher expressed.
According to the director, it's not just patients who feel the sting of stigma surrounding mental illness, it's their friends and families, too.
"People are afraid to tell their friends that a loved one of theirs has mental health issues."
First seeing a family member admitted into inpatient care can be disorienting. Patients from across the province, cities including Prince George and North Vancouver, receive specialized treatment at the 94-bed Burnaby facility.
"Families admit they don't understand what 24/7 treatment will be like for their loved one," Embacher said.
For this reason, the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction established a Partnerships In Care committee made up of dozens of patients' family members. The group meets monthly to review the centre's current care model and its policies, providing unique insight and recommendations for lasting change.
"Research has shown when families are involved in a patient's care they typically have greater success in treatment – it provides better results," Embacher said.
The committee designed a handbook for families of those admitted, including information on where to park, who to call, and how to visit their loved on.
Families have also proven helpful for when mental health professionals are creating a treatment plan.
"Mothers and fathers will remember which medications have worked and recognize symptoms and patterns, more so than many medical records," Embacher said.
The treatment plan isn't solely prescriptive, but also includes activities and classes. This involves patient participation so the recovery centre can learn about the patient in ways not found in medical records.
"One of our patients used to be a pianist. So they wanted to include that into the program with the help of a therapist."
It's these "old ways of living" lost while struggling through a mental health disorder that can aid in recovery.
"After all, they know themselves better than we do."
Jan. 28 marksBell Let's Talk – a day dedicated to removing the stigma around mental health while raising funds for services across the country.
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