My name is Maria Lorenzoni. I am pictured here taking part in a Home on the Hill Art Class for clients and family caregivers. I am pleased to share my experience with you as a caregiver of an adult son with serious mental illness. My family and I, in the course of our never-ending journey through the mental health system, have met many doctors, social workers, nurses and therapists in a few hospital settings.
Of course, health care practitioners deal with science-based, symptom-oriented facts and rational conclusions. Diagnosis and treatment are their goals. Families, especially parents, on the other hand, deal with the very human and emotional side of the illness. Add that to the fact that family members of adults with mental illness are not privy to information about their loved ones’ condition and treatment, and you have a situation where families feel isolated and hopeless.
Yes, there are group activities and ACT team monitoring the patient, but each family is left on the sidelines, afraid and unable to reach out to anyone, partly because of stigma and partly because they are mostly left out of the equation.
It is simplistic to say that families should come together and support each other in any way they can, but this is difficult, due to stigma, fear, lack of knowledge, and other factors.
It’s very hard to find a place where a family can find acceptance, education and insight, hands-on and practical support, and initiatives geared to helping and engaging the stuggling mentally-ill patient, a place where a family feels validated in a non-judgmental way.
And then, it was my good fortune to find Home on the Hill.
Their initiatives to push for improved mental health resources, the support groups and social activities they have created, and public education seminars, are of value to everyone. But in addition to this, the emotional support , the sense of belonging, the personal, non-judgmental interaction, and knowledge that there is a place where I can share my concerns freely, have given me a great sense of relief and renewed self-esteem. I no longer feel alone in my journey. While these are not in the category of concrete accomplishments, they are of enormous comfort and help. In unity there is strength, and with this personal support system at my side, I feel stronger and no longer isolated. This is what enables me and my family, to continue our journey, knowing there is a group of people who have taken a personal interest in helping me along the way. I have found a haven.
From a York Region Resident who wishes to remain anonymous:
In late 2017 I had my first encounter with the Home On The Hill group as they were referred to me by 360 Kids Intake Personnel. Prior to this I searched relentlesly for any kind of support as my grandson had a second more intense psychosic episode. My husband and I raised our grandson and after his first year of University, away from home, this all started.
The first hospital and psychiatrist provided us with little or no information although we tried so hard to obtain information. Even our family doctor was told by the psychiatrist not to get involved. So when the second episode occurred, we were lost and felt helpless, to say the least.
Then I spoke with a volunteer staff from Home on the Hill. She patiently listened, only pausing to ask pertinent questions as needed. This is the kind of response that I and my husband needed : someone to listen and understand and say ‘we hear you we know about this, it has happened to us and with others with our loved ones!’
I felt like someone pulled me up from the deep end and my lungs were filled with air. I was breathing again!
This supportive group is so essential for families facing this crisis situation of inadequate services for those with serious mental illness which is destroying our society. Only the ones faced with this illness truly understand the enormity and need for action. A new approach/model of care is needed for dealing with these very complex multi-faceted serious illnesses that our society shuns away from mostly because of fear and ignorance.
To our elected officials, communities, please hear us, we need your immediate help to this urgent call for support and change. Let’s all work together as the subject of serious mental illness is bigger than our society wants to admit to. We must bring about new models of care within our medical and other support systems.
Thank you Home On The Hill for your continued efforts and hard work. Our families appreciate and support you!
York Region Resident
From Horatio, a program participant:
The reason Home on the Hill works, is simple. The Staff knows exactly what you are going through from a client’s perspective. Why? Either because they have a mental illness, or they have a family member who has a mental illness, or because they have compassion that has come from their knowledge of mental illness. At Home on the Hill, the Staff and Clients interact with one another. Home on the Hill actually gives Clients confidence, raises self-esteem, and provides a healthy environment. The goal of Home on the Hill is to provide opportunities for the Client to succeed. The therapeutic aspect of Home on the Hill that I find is this: the social interactions with other Clients, learning from them, as well as the Clients learning from you.
From John, a program leader:
About 3 years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I had to spend some time in hospital where I was given medication and proper treatment. My recovery has been extremely successful. Fast forward three years later and I am working full time and pretty much fully recovered. I wanted to give back to the mental health community so I reached out to my local MP Majid Jowhari, the MP of Richmond Hill. To my surprise and delight he is very passionate about Mental Health. Shortly afterward I connected with Home On The Hill. They were looking for a volunteer to start a mental health band – a band where people with mental health issues can come together and play music.
The band has been a very fun way to connect with others who have mental illnesses. I look forward to it every week. It’s extremely therapeutic and fun. We plan on recording our first album in August this year and team up with MP Jowhari to host a mental health awareness event/album release party.
I’m overjoyed with the progress we’ve made and I look forward to more milestones to come.
By: lindsay, a program participant:
Home on the Hill is an amazing organization. It is full of awesome members: clients, peers, and of course these individuals who plan the programs and those who facilitate the programs. Every member of Home on the Hill cares about every other member. We are all encouraged to come out to as many of the programs that we are able to and to participate to the best of our abilities on that particular day. It is recognized that an individual’s ability to take part changes daily, even hourly, so we are all met with great compassion by Home on the Hill members.
From an anonymous donor:
Thank you for all the wonderful work you do. Home on the Hill has made a huge difference in our son’s life.
From a family caregiver who attends the family support and respite program.
The outings and socialization are very important in our self-care. The empathy and understanding in sharing our experiences together in the family support group has been very helpful. There is useful advice about how to advocate for more integrated services for our loved ones. Group members relieved my feelings of exhaustion and being overburdened by reaching out to me in a way that helped when the health system was putting up barriers.
From a family caregiver:
The Home on the Hill family support group meets my needs in that it offers interaction with caregivers such as myself to discuss challenges and concerns. Many times, we receive comfort and consolation in knowing that we are not alone. Many times, we are given suggestions and ideas that may assist in supporting our loved one who is struggling with their mental health challenge.
The social outings, holiday parties and presentations are a very integral part of the group. It offers an outing outside of our daily routine and allows for us, the caregivers, to spend some time with each other to socialize. The information presentations are very helpful and much needed to assist in our life planning.
From a family caregiver:
The Home on the Hill family support group are the only people who understand the trauma and devastation that I have gone through, because they have gone through it themselves. The listen with care and empathy. They do not judge, dismiss or disrespect my feelings, like other ‘friends’ and family do. We exchange ideas and suggestions that have worked or that may work. The respite program offer activities which provide much needed relief, a break from the endless exhaustion, stress and sadness that engulf our lives. Home on the Hill provides needed, valued information sessions for us. For example, the wills/estate lawyer gave us specific information about wills when you have dependent adult children, like our group members do.
From a family caregiver of two adult children with serious mental illness:
I don’t attend your respite groups or support groups (too far for me to travel and also they are usually at night and I can’t see well at night to drive). However, I do attend occasionally your Lecture Series and believe these are positive because they have very informative Lectures which I like to hear.
From the parents of an adult child with mental illness: