Caring for the caregivers

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As with most illnesses, caretakers for those who are faced with a mental illness need to be mindful to not only take care of the person with the diagnosis but themselves as well.

After having been previously hosted in Pictou County, the Families Matter in Mental Health group will be taking place this month to help family members, friends and caretakers of those with mental illnesses.

“The family is going through this right along with the person with the illness,” said Sherry Blinkhorn who is conducting registration for the program. The 11-week program focuses on caretakers and offers support, education, coping and strategies for family and friends of those with a mental illness.

“The biggest thing is that people realize that they’re not alone,” Blinkhorn said. The program begins with sort of an in-group assessment to help figure out what direction will be the most beneficial for the individuals in the group; from there self-care, boundaries and what services are available in Pictou County are discussed as well as some group work.n

“We talk about recovery and hope as well,” Blinkhorn added.

For those in the program, the lessons and having someone who understands them and where they are coming from can make all the difference. A woman that participated in one of the groups a few years ago agreed to share her experience with The Advocate under anonymity so as not to out her family member.

“I have a family member who has suffered from mental illness for most of my life,” the woman said. “I was having trouble coping and I saw this group and thought I would give it a try.”

For her, the ability to talk to others who understood her perspective meant a lot and helped immensely in her own recovery.

“Just to talk to people who understood what it’s like to be a caregiver for someone with a mental illness without having to justify my feelings,” she said. “I distinctly remember driving home from the group with a smile on my face.”

The group helps family members discuss issues that they face as caregivers and makes the sessions focus on them rather than the person who has the illness, some attention that can sometimes be much needed for someone who might be feeling stressed out or worn out from being a caregiver.

“I learned how to deal with things that I was dealing with and see things in a new perspective,” she said. “My biggest takeaway is obviously that I’m not alone and I learned how to separate the illness from the family member.”

Sherry Blinkhorn shows off the poster for the latest Families Matter in Mental Health group program.

The details:

• 11 weeks in duration

• Begins October 25

• 6 to 8 p.m.

For confidential registration contact Sherry Blinkhorn at 902-759.2557 or