Despite having a presence in Sarnia for nearly two decades, the Lambton Mental Wellness Centre still remains a little-known haven for people struggling with mental illness and their families, says its interim director.
“It’s been an ongoing struggle for us,” said Cheryl Iacobelli, noting that far too many residents are unaware of the Durand Street centre and its services — which include peer support, education, social recreation, networking and advocacy for those living with mental illness.
“With a small budget, we really only rely on word of mouth. But we want to reach out to the community even more.”
Iacobelli attended a recent Sarnia Speaks event at which there were calls for more supports for family members and caregivers in Sarnia-Lambton.
“That was the biggest thing, people said there’s no support here for families, but we’ve been running a support group for years,” said Iacobelli. “We meet so many frustrated people who say, ‘Why didn’t I know about this?’”
She pointed to the Lambton Family Initiative, a branch of the centre that provides free support for families and caregivers of individuals who have mental illness, including a family support group, and the Family to Family Education Program, a 12-week course launched back in 2002 that has actually reached some 700 participants locally, she said.
“It’s a safe, confidential space to meet with other family members that understand what you’re going through,” she said.
The course, taught by trained, volunteer family members, explores depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and others. Families learn about medications, side effects, brain biology, research, empathy, communication skills, rehabilitation services and advocacy. The program was designed by the U.S.-based National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and was launched by local retiree Bill Hopkins, a longtime advocate for mental health awareness. Sarnia is one of the only Canadian cities offering the course.
“We also have daily peer-to-peer support for individuals living with mental illness,” said Iacobelli, noting about 400 registered members. Activities like yoga, meditation and walking take place regularly.
The centre also offers the WRAP program — Wellness Recover Action Plan — a peer-run mental health recovery program developed to help those with mental health challenges to get and stay well.
For more information about the Lambton Mental Wellness Centre and its programs, visit www.lmwc.ca or contact Cheryl at 519-344-5602.