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Family Support Program

Supporting Recovery

When someone has a mental health condition, support from family can make a big difference. However, it may be hard for us as family members to know what approach is best. It’s particularly difficult to balance showing support with caring for our own health and encouraging others to be responsible for their actions.

Remember You’re in the Process of Learning

Helping a family member is difficult, even if you do everything “right.” No book, therapist or website can tell you how to prepare for the situations that may arise.

It may help to think of this experience as a learning process. Every person with a mental health condition experiences it slightly differently. One person may fear losing a job, while another may be more worried about how relationships will change. If you ask questions and listen to the answers, you can learn about your family member’s unique concerns.

You can also acquire better skills for offering support, as you learn what works well in your family and what doesn’t. If you come from a family that’s uncomfortable talking about mental illness or emotions, remember you have the ability to improve your communication. Similarly, even if you feel like you don’t know how to offer encouragement right now, you can develop and improve through practice.

Remember Support is Not Control

We can support and encourage our family members. We can’t, however, make their treatment decisions for them. We should offer suggestions and input, but be ready to accept and support their decisions.

They may not choose the treatment options that we would prefer, but by acknowledging their right to decide, we create a respectful, healing environment within the family. We improve their immediate quality of life by treating them with dignity. We’re also encouraging them to commit to their chosen course of action.

The reality is that we can only control our own actions. We have to learn to give the people around us responsibility for decisions that only they can make. It’s ultimately up to them to decide on their goals and strategies. You can encourage your family members, but you must let go of the feeling that you have to solve their problems for them.

Remember, an Illness is Influencing Your Family Member’s Behavior

Even when we know someone has a mental health condition, it can be hard to recognize his or her efforts to be well. Sometimes we wonder if a family member is “trying to be difficult.” We may find ourselves looking for something to blame: should we blame our family member or the mental health condition itself. In general, we should try to give family the benefit of the doubt. Remember that no one chooses to experience these symptoms.

Things You Can Do to Be Supportive

One of the most important ways to support a family member is to maintain our own mental health. The healthier we are, the more energy we have for problem solving and offering encouragement. We can then offer practical support, such as the following:

Learn as much as possible about mental health and your family member’s condition. Knowledge gives you practical insight and understanding. Learn about available treatments. What therapies and medications can help? Do people with this condition typically spend time in residential treatment? What options are available for supportive housing or employment?

Family and Caregiver Support

Having a family member with a mental illness can be very stressful. Whether the ill person is a son, daughter, husband, wife, brother or sister, you will be affected by their illness too. A person with a psychiatric disorder often needs much love, help and support. At the same time, the problems, fears and behaviour of your ill relative may strain your patience and your ability to cope. Your self-care and mental health is important too!

CMHA’s Family Support program provides the following groups for family members:

Families Caring Families Sharing 2024 (Hybrid)

Offered in a hybrid format, either in person or virtually via Zoom, the second Tuesday of the month at 7:00 p.m.   This monthly group provides support and caregiving strategies to families living with mental illness. The group is offered the second Tuesday of each month, from 7-8:00 p.m., with the exception of July & August. If interested, please call 519-752-2998, ext. 112 or email to register or for more information

Download flyer here

Families Caring, Families Sharing 2024 HybridDownload

NAMI Family to Family Education Program (Hybrid)

A free 8-session course for family and  friends of persons living with a serious mental illness. The program is taught by trained facilitators who are also family members. The course content includes, information about illnesses of the brain and their treatment, coping skills and, the power of advocacy.

The next session will be held in April 18, 2024. The program will be delivered in a hybrid format, both in person and virtually via Zoom.  View flyer here


Read more about the NAMI Program here: NAMI Family-to-Family Education Course (

If you are interested in being a part of future NAMI classes, please call 519-752-2998, ext. 112 or 103.

Family Support Resources

When you first realize that someone you are close to may have a mental illness, it can be a chaotic and frightening time. You fear where this may lead. Suddenly you are called upon to provide special support for which you feel completely unprepared. What can you do? Who can you talk to? If you’re in this situation, our Family Support Program may assist with:

In addition, these resources can provide helpful information for you and your family.


Being There: The Guide


All Together Now: A Family Guide to Depression and Bipolar Disorder

Caregiver Support Services

Family Peer Support

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