Virtual conference planned for caregivers to people with mental illness, addictions
Several community partners are coming together in response to conducting a needs assessment asking caregivers of adults with mental illness how they can be supported.
Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH), The University of Windsor and WE SPARK Health Institute will host its inaugural Caring for the Caregiver Conference on Oct. 16 and Oct. 23. The half day event will be held virtually from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at no cost to attendees.
Caregiver Clementa Stan says the event is intended to offer informal support.
“Our goal of the research was to learn about the actual experiences and actual needs of the caregivers of loved ones experiencing mental illness or addiction in their community,” she says.
Stan is also a member of the advisory council to HDGH and works at The University of Windsor. She believes caregivers and their loved ones’ current state are deeply connected, telling CTV News it’s important caregivers are able to care for themselves as well.
“Providing care to a loved one who is experiencing mental illness or addiction is quite challenging it can be very overwhelming. We as caregivers experience high levels of stress, burnout even.” Stan explains, “We’re not able to care for our loved ones if we ourselves miss caring for us.”
Stan adds she hopes the conference provides meaningful conversation that works to ease associated stigma.
“Mental illness is still so stigmatized in our country and communities and addiction as well and it’s hard to see that.” Stan says, “We also have engagement opportunities where caregivers can chat with each other and share their experiences and success and their struggles.”
The virtual conference is also for caregivers of loved ones with addictions.
Participants will hear from experts on topics such as Navigating the Healthcare System, and Compassion Fatigue, as well as Consent and the Mental Health Act. Each day will also include connection and support from peer groups and an opportunity to engage with fellow caregivers.
“From the more than 75 individuals who took part in the initial study, came very insightful, often times emotional, information,” said lead researcher Dr. Edward Cruz from the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Windsor.
“Caregivers shared how deeply impacted they are by their experiences, how their health and well-being is so closely related to that of their loved-one’s current state, and how hard it can be at times navigating the mental health and addictions healthcare system,” added Cruz.
The conference agenda was carefully curated based on these key findings, and will feature experts versed in the specific topics raised.
“The Caring for the Caregiver Study and now conference was an idea that originated through our Mental Health and Addictions Patient and Family Advisory Council,” said Patrick Kolowicz, director of Mental Health and Addictions with HDGH and Chair of the Council. “The group of more than 10 individuals, some caregivers themselves, noticed a need and acted on this. Caregivers, who often go unnoticed, are individuals that help our mental health and addictions system function. Supporting them is critical.”
Registration is now open and can be done by visiting www.wesparkhealth.com/caregiver-conference.
- With files from CTV Windsor's Chris Campbell