Having a sense of purpose

ChathamDailyNews.ca – archive
November 30, 2011.   By Kelly Gottschling

Every day, most of us wake up with a sense of purpose, we may not want to go to work or to school, but we do. Many of us feel like it’s a chore.

Most of us don’t realize how lucky we are to have something productive to do in our day. Imagine waking up every day with no schedule, no work, little money and most likely no means of transportation other than walking because a car or even the bus pass is beyond your reach.

Think about what it would be like to live alone, with few friends and often no family contact. That is how many people with serious mental health issues live. Isolation is very common. Loneliness sets in, especially in the winter months.

Because many people who live with a serious mental illness often live on Ontario Disability Support, they have very little money for anything other than the essentials. Most people we know have an average monthly income of $1,000. Their rent is often $600 per month or more. Phone and cable are luxuries that most folks cannot afford; some choose to have it because it is their only form of entertainment and a connection to the outside world. Only a few people have a computer or Internet. Healthy nutritious food choices are not always possible. HST added to utilities has made life even more difficult for persons living below the poverty level.

Although a great deal of work has been done in local mental health community support programs, we still have a long way to go. Fortunately, mental health agencies are now looking at a recovery model and working very hard at encouraging paid employment in meaningful jobs. Lower cost housing is available to those who live on fixed incomes, and community stakeholders are creating opportunities including education that promotes a healthier lifestyle.

In 2006 the Ministry of Health invested funding in the Mental Health Network (formally the Chatham Kent Consumer and Family Network). We have a number of roles in the community. First and foremost, we act as the voice of persons living with mental illness both in Chatham-Kent and across the province. We provide information, guidance, and education to all community stakeholders.

We also link people to services they might not know about. We make referrals as requested. We provide daily meals and offer education around healthy eating, budgeting and nutrition. We offer exercise and fitness programs every day.

Self-help groups are facilitated by our staff and community partners. They include topics such as living with depression, anxiety groups, relationships, coping with the holidays etc. We also offer peer support. A youth group is available to persons 16-32 every Wednesday. It is peer-led and has an educational, leisure/recreation component. Our social recreation programs are always fun filled and enjoyed by more than 300 people locally.

The most important thing that we offer is an opportunity to be together in a safe, encouraging, healthy environment. We encourage a sense of purpose both in our daily programs and in the community. Many of the people who attend our programs also teach groups. They share experiences and knowledge about coping and living well in spite of a mental health diagnosis. They offer hope, and share their stories of recovery.

If you would like more information about our programs or to view our monthly calendar, visit www.ckcfn.com or call 519-351-3100. We are located at 235 St. Clair St. in Chatham.

Kelly Gottschling is the executive director of the Chatham-Kent Consumer and Family Network.

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