Mental Health Commission of Canada releases national guidelines to improve support for family caregivers

MONTREAL, June 27, 2013 /CNW/ - Now decision makers and service providers have the tools they need to make positive change for family caregivers who provide critical help to adult loved ones living with mental illnesses.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) officially launched the National Guidelines for a Comprehensive Service System to Support Family Caregivers of Adults with Mental Health Problems and Illnesses today during a celebration at the 14th Canadian Collaborative Mental Health Care Conference in Montreal.

"Caring for a loved one with a mental illness can place incredible strain on families. I can speak with an intimate knowledge of the value these Guidelines will bring to thousands of family caregivers across this country," says Senator Denise Batters from her office in Ottawa. Senator Batters lost her husband, former MP Dave Batters, to suicide in 2009. "Every day, Canadians face the daunting challenge of helping family members recover from mental illness, encountering stigma and facing barriers to family involvement in the mental health system. These national guidelines are an important step towards giving family caregivers the support they need."

The Guidelines are primarily aimed at service providers and policy makers, recommending many types of supports and services that caregivers need at different stages of their loved one's illness and at different stages of their own lives.

"Family caregivers can play an extremely important role in the recovery journey of those with mental illness, but it can also be a very demanding and draining task," says MHCC President and CEO Louise Bradley. "We are hopeful that these Guidelines will lead to improved services that provide caregivers across the country with early information, guidance and support to care for their loved ones effectively and to ease associated stresses."

The Guidelines present 41 recommendations intended to improve the capacity of caregivers to provide the best possible care to adults with mental illness while tending to their own wellbeing. Caregivers from across Canada were instrumental in the development of these Guidelines by offering feedback on an early proposed draft in focus groups alongside adults living with mental illness, service providers and representatives from not-for-profit mental health organizations.

"The recommendations for change in these Guidelines are exactly what is needed," says Heather Lackner, Knowledge Exchange Lead at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and lifelong family caregiver. "Family caregivers need their helping role acknowledged and they need our support. These Guidelines are a step towards better health outcomes for Canadians. When we support family carers and embed them into the system of care, the whole mental health care system will improve."

Recommendations cover topics such as how to integrate family support into mental health services, training and support for service providers, as well as potential legislative and policy changes. The Guidelines also recognize that the unpaid care and support provided by family caregivers provides a major contribution to the health and social service system, which would be costly to replace with paid formal services. Researchers estimated that in 2006, caring for persons with mental illness added up to $3.9 billion in Canada alone.

The MHCC's former Family Caregivers Advisory Committee initially advocated for national guidelines to support caregivers. The Commission responded with resources so that the initiative could be transformed into concrete action.

"These Guidelines will go a long way to provide family caregivers with the tools they need to stay healthy and strong as they help their loved ones," says Ella Amir, chair of the MHCC's former Family Caregivers Advisory Committee and Executive Director of AMI-Quebec, a Montreal-based family caregivers association. "Caregivers who are unable to tend to their own wellbeing may limit the effectiveness of the help they can provide to relatives and increase costs to the health and social service systems. These Guidelines are long overdue."

"We estimate there are more than five million caregivers throughout Canada who must be supported, recognized and protected from the sometimes adverse consequences of having to care too much," says Canadian Caregiver Coalition President Nadine Henningsen. "These Guidelines reinforce the key actions contained in a Canadian Caregiver Strategy that the Coalition is advocating for. We look forward promoting the awareness and implementation of this important tool."

Download the Guidelines for free at www.mentalhealthcommission.ca to learn more about family caregivers and how the Canadian mental health system needs to change to better support their needs.

ABOUT THE MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSION OF CANADA
The Mental Health Commission of Canada is a catalyst for change. We are collaborating with hundreds of partners to change the attitudes of Canadians toward mental health problems and to improve services and support. Our goal is to help people who live with mental health problems and illnesses lead meaningful and productive lives. Together we spark change.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada is funded by Health Canada.
www.mentalhealthcommission.ca
strategy.mentalhealthcommission.ca

The views represented herein solely represent the views of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Production of this document is made possible through a financial contribution from Health Canada.

SOURCE: Mental Health Commission of Canada

For further information:

Kyle Marr, Senior Communication Specialist
Mental Health Commission of Canada
Office: (403) 385‐4050
Cell: (587) 226‐8782
kmarr@mentalhealthcommission.ca

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