Durham Mental Health Services (DMHS) received 100 iris bulbs on October 23rd to celebrate its partnership with the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO) - Peterborough/Durham Region Branch.  The Schizophrenia Society of Ontario adopted the iris as an emblem for its crusade against mental illness in 1994. The iris symbolizes faith, hope and courage for anyone who is suffering.

Representatives of the SSO and Durham Mental Health Services gathered at the Durham Mental Health Services Crisis Building in Whitby to plant half of the bulbs.  The other half will be given to families of people with mental illnesses. 

“October is Schizophrenia Awareness Month.  Iris bulbs are being planted throughout the province of Ontario to build awareness and support for individuals and their families who are affected by mental illness”, says Hope Carson, Family and Community Coordinator of the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario – Peterborough/Durham Region Branch. Ms Carson presented the bulbs to Brigid Phelan, Program  Coordinator for DMHS.

“Our organizations support our clients with schizophrenia and their families by working together.  Families need information and to know they are not alone.  Our case management and family groups provide that,” Brigid Phelan says. “People with schizophrenia need to know that with the right help, they can live healthy and productive lives.  Many people with schizophrenia do just that”.

Approximately 1 in 100 people will develop schizophrenia during their lifetime.  In Canada that is about 300,000 people.  Carson stresses that “When people with schizophrenia are diagnosed early and receive appropriate interventions they often do very well”.

Durham Mental Health Services partners with the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario – Peterborough/Durham Region Branch to offer 10-week educational groups for families affected by mental illness.  The next 10-week educational sessions begins in early 2009. 

Strengthening Families Together is a 10-week psycho-educational program for families and friends of individuals with schizophrenia and other related disorders. It provides Canadian-based information on the topics associated with living daily with a mental illness, such as understanding the signs and symptoms of the major mental illnesses, learning about the causes and treatment options, developing coping skills, navigating the mental health care system, and learning effective advocacy strategies. The program allows for flexibility, and can be adapted to meet the needs of the local community.

It is found that when families, friends and caregivers who know someone with a mental illness are supported, the person does much better; it helps you better respond to the ill person; talking and sharing with other family members can decrease the feelings of isolation and helplessness; a place to obtain current information on schizophrenia which will help the family to better understand the illness; and get informed on the available treatment and support services in your community will better support the family member who is ill. 

Contact Central Intake at 905-666-0831, ext. 235 to register or for more information. 

Durham Mental Health Services also provides the community based mental health crisis services for all of Durham Region.  This includes 24 hour telephone response, mobile services and community crisis beds.  Anyone who needs help or advice about themselves or someone they love can call 905-666-0483 or 1-800-742-1890.

For more information contact:
Doreen Hume McKenna
Coordinator of Community Engagement
Durham Mental Health Services
905-666-0831 Ex 227