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  • Writer's pictureMona Cooley

Adapting to Manage the Times

Mental Health is at the forefront of the news today. Managing these difficult times is difficult to adapt to and adjust the circumstances when life is a roller coaster.

In 1995. our family's life changed dramatically when our daughter left for the weekend with friends to go camping. Returning Sunday telling she had a near death experience. She shared her experience with her dad and I. She appeared to be okay however through the week she was calling friends, laughing she broke off with her boyfriend, she was calling our friends and becoming increasingly euphoric. By the end of the week she thought she had the cure for AIDS, was going to the next winter Olympics as a figure skater and that she could predict the future. By Sunday, she was more intense with her relationship with, she stated she had the cure for aids, bolted out the door with her siblings pulling her to the ground. We headed to the Foothills Hospital. After seeing a psychiatrist, he diagnosed her with Bipolar Disorder.

The whole family had to adapt to the change in our situation not just our Daughter who had to manage the ups and downs of her disorder.

This major change 26 years ago prepared us for the pandemic today that is challenging families to it's core to the point families are being eroded with complex situations and the capacity of the family to be well is being tested.

There were NO FAMILY PROGRAMS to help us to know "how to" ride the roller coaster of emotions and challenges. We had to approach the situation differently by seeing the view points and realities of our daughter who we were trying to help while managing our own fears and panic. A year later, I had the chutzpah to approach CMHA ( Canadian Mental Health Association) Calgary to say " we need a family program to coach families how to work through the process of changing how to approach situations to have positive outcomes." They supported the idea.

Mental Health is being eroded with the pandemic and more than ever families are needing the tools to manage the painful situations.

Stats Canada - YYC Calgary Business Newsletter reported:

Screened a positive for a least one disorder - major depression disorder, GAD AND PTSD between the ages of 25-64 ( Fall 2020 - Spring 2021 time frame)

Fall 2020 - Spring 2021 showed an increase of major depression disorder for ages 25-44 increase from 18-23% and GAD increase from 15 - 20%

I have outlined the process calling it PROCESS 5 to describe the changes since 1996 to present of helping families to manage difficult situations when supporting their loved one who is struggling with mental health and/or addiction.

The process involved: Education, Insight, Complex, Transformation, Sustainability

  1. Education - 1996 -6-week psycho-education was developed to educate families the signs and symptoms of Mental Disorders, families sharing their experiences instead of being silent and learning from each other instead of going it alone.

  2. Insight - 1997 - realizing the 6-week course was a good start, families needed more ongoing support to lean on when faced with existing and/or new challenges. Started Family Peer Drop In Sessions for the families to support one another while learning through discussion of " how to" Let Go, Set Boundaries and Communicate Effectively and approach situations differently than what they were doing.

  3. Complex - in the beginning families were attending sessions with no diagnosis or a diagnosis of their loved one but gradually over the years it expanded to loved ones' being diagnosed with multiple disorders such as Schizo-effective Bipolar Disorder ( combination of Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder) and/or addiction.

  4. Transformation - 2017, decided to expand my business ( Cool Family Solutions formed in 2008) to develop what I saw as having a more intense program to get to the root of family issues and guide families through a process to discover their own strategies to transform their difficult situations to have positive outcomes. I was recognizing families were slipping backwards instead of progressing forward with confidence to manage their situations. Thus the family 10-week session was developed to meet the needs of the complexities the families were trying to manage.

  5. Sustainability - 2018, Cool Family Solutions and Thumbs Up Foundation collaborating ....The Thumbs Up Foundation ( whose son died by suicide) asked to pilot the 10-week program and have participants complete a survey to provide feedback on their experience. DEFINITELY YES, it was important to know if the program was impacting the families to have the capacity to transform their difficult situations to have positive outcomes. After 10-pilots the funder Thumbs Up Foundation received consistent reports of 93% - 96% success rate of positively impacting families. Testimonials poured in with 2 below as proof of the success.

"This is a great program that I think is a game changer in Mental Health"

"I have done so much work to deal with my mom and this is the first time EVER

I feel it has STUCK and I got true SUSTAINABLE RESULTS."

How a mom explained her situation when faced with loved ones living with anxiety related issues and PTSD while struggling to keep the other parts of their lives together "it's never about you're doing it wrong, it's about doing it differently because you are helped to see the view points and realities of the loved ones you're trying to help"

Managing change is about adapting to change and believing you have the capacity to transform difficult situations to have positive impact and sustainability. You can do it when you practice the tools such as honest healthy conversations, letting go, boundaries, develop strengths such as adaptability, emotional intelligence. Our next 10-week is set for Wednesday, October 27, 2021.

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