While the office doors might be closed to the local branch of the BC Schizophrenia Society in Smithers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the services are still be offered.
Regional Coordinator of the Mental Health Family Resource Centre for the BC Schizophrenia Society Clara Donnelly said she is trying to be creative and reach out to people in different ways.
“In my job, I support family members with people living with mental illnesses,” she said. “It is always face to face, we have support groups, we have education programs, it is all about gathering and meeting with people. So now, given the situation we are trying to reach all our clients over the phone and through video conferencing.”
She said she is concerned about her clients.
“When people are living with a mental illness and their family members are sharing that situation, they are caring for them … it is difficult right now because any kind of change in their routines, things can exacerbate. They need extra support. If we all have a routine and we are suffering because our routines are not the same, then [people living with mental health illnesses] are way more exposed to difficulties.”
Donnelly and her co-workers are also partnering with other agencies, such as Mental Health and Addictions and Child and Youth Mental Health to try and reach more people, especially family members of those with mental health issues. She said family members can feel a heightened sense of anxiety during this crisis.
“So far I haven’t had anyone calling me for help so in the meantime I’m trying to call everyone in my case load because this is a very difficult situation and we’ve never experienced it. So we are trying to reach out. Thank God for technology.”
Donnely said her office isn’t just for people needing support for schizophrenia or psychosis but any and all other kinds of mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety.
Donnelly is working on setting up virtual support groups for family members of people living with mental illness and caregivers of family members of people living with dementia.
She understands not everyone will be comfortable with the idea of meeting online but hopes to be able to reach out to anyone needing support right now.
“Everyone working in the mental health field is concerned about our clients,” she added. “We are doing our best to not let them fall through the cracks by reaching out to them. Some people are not reaching out to us yet, I think some people are at home and so much into the fear of COVID-19, they are so afraid they haven’t processed a lot of things. I think later on, when people start to go out, there might be backlash. We are prepared to be there for them when that happens. We are aware..
She has three tips to keep mental health healthy that she gathered from the Canadian Mental Health Association and Anxiety Canada.
The first is to share humour.
“In times like this, it is important to connect with others in a positive way. If you see or hear something that makes you smile or laugh, share it with someone you know.We need to laugh, laughter is the best medicine.”
Secondly, exercise is important.
“Regular physical activity improves physiological well being. It can reduce depression and anxiety. You can do some at home if you have a machine like a treadmill or elliptical or just dance to your favourite song. Or go for a walk with your family or your dog. Fortunately for us we can go for walks.”
And lastly, treat yourself well.
“Cook yourself a really good meal, take a bubble bath or watch a movie on Netflix. Daydream, imagine yourself in the best place you can imagine, take a deep breath and let the environment wrap you up in a sensation of peace and tranquility. Try to think that everything will get better,” she said.
Anyone who might need support or someone to talk to can call Donnelly in the office at 250.847.9779 or on her cell at 250.917.8337