Mental Illness

I've had the unfortunate experience of having to deal with mental illness in my family. My first wife suffered from the affects of a traumatic childhood and two sons had schizophrenia. My two daughters and my other son, as well as myself, were affected by having to deal with a good many chaotic years.

Some years ago, I decided that maybe others might benefit from some of my "trials and tribulations". The steps I took opened up some surprising opportunities.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is the Ontario organization charged with a heavy responsibility. I happened to know an employee of CAMH because I volunteered to produce a website for an organization in Toronto that supports efforts in Haiti. He referred me to The Family Council. The FC is funded by CAMH but operates independently to help families of those with mental health or addiction problems. If there had been such an organization years ago I sure would have welcomed some help.

I met a woman, Annick Aubert, who has been active with the FC for years, particularly in The Family Resource Centre. The FRC has a number of volunteers who provide families with peer to peer support. The other prime responsibilities of the FC is to advocate with CAMH on behalf of families as well as to keep families abreast of what's happening regarding addiction and mental health care. Following our meeting, Annick was going to a seminar prepared by another volunteer organization, Management Advisory Services (MAS) that provides consulting services to the Not for Profit sector in the Greater Toronto Area. The seminar broke into interest groups (tables). One of the categories was "Marketing". Since I know something about that, I chose that table. The first item raised was that the FC needed a website. I said, "I can help with that." I gained several immediate friends! The current iteration of the website is at

That evolved into my joining the Board of Directors and, subsequently, Chair of the Board.

Personally, one of my prime interests is to "get the word out". So, I have developed two PowerPoint presentations to help me make effective presentations in the Toronto area:

  • What I learned - This presentation is oriented to people dealing with family members with addiction or mental illness. Hopefully, I can help some people to take some shortcuts in their learning/accepting process.
  • The Problem - Knowledge leads to understanding; understanding lessens the stigma associated with mental illness and addictions. I've downloaded several relevant videos and researched various statistics. Hopefully, I can make a dint in the ignorance that pervades.

I have also volunteered to be on a CAMH committee whose objective is to make recommendations to CAMH Board of Trustees about anything that might contribute to better service to those who so desperately need help.

I mentioned about a seminar given by MAS (Management Advisory Services). This organization provides consulting services to non-profit organizations in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). I decided that this is something I would like to do. I have found the work quite satisfying. Again, my expertise is marketing. However, when I volunteered with CESO we volunteers found almost without exception, what the organization needed was not quite what they had requested. For example, at the moment, I'm working with a young man who is setting up a social support facility in one of the outlying areas of Toronto. What he really has needed was a sort of mentor. (This is his first job.) I meet with him every couple of weeks and we review what is happening. In particular, I helped him to spell out, in a business-like way, to the city (funding) authorities precisely what is proposed and how it will be implemented.