A unique Richmond program focused on kids supporting kids and parents supporting parents in families with mental health issues generated interest from professionals from around the world.
"The presentation (Monday) by the Richmond Supporting Families group at the Mental Health Matters World Forum went very well," said Rosalie Walls, founder of the Resilient Kids program, which has been in existence in Richmond since 2008.
"There was lots of interest with further information being requested by attendees from Connecticut, Australia, Alberta, North West Territories, Toronto, Michigan and New Zealand."
The two-day conference, which attracted more than 400 attendees, was an opportunity for mental health workers to hear about the collaborative work done here locally.
"What people were very interested in from the Richmond service model was how the community of professionals (at the recommendation of families living with mental health issues) build collaboration between mental health services, ministry for children and families and community agencies and the ways it helped families to not fall between the cracks," added Walls.
What makes Resilient Kids so unique is that collaboration between various provincial bodies and nonprofit organizations, which work together to enhance the lives of those living with mental illness, as well as their families.
Some of the highlights of the congress, said Walls, were meeting the presenters from Australia "who lead the world in their innovative programs to support families living with mental health and their thinking through a family lens rather than individual adult or child mental health services."
The latter way of thinking dominates most mental health services in British Columbia, according to Walls.
Resilient Kids was born out of Walls' own personal relationship with mental illness. "My brother suffered from high anxiety and depression. For years, I worked in the mental health field and child protection," said Walls.
She said there were times when her brother couldn't leave the house for months on end. "I saw the vulnerabilities of the families. If someone with mental health issues is doing everything they can to stay healthy, then we should do things to help them."
Recently, the Resilient Kids program received a much needed boost in the way of a $100,000 grant from the BC Gaming Association.
"This money will help us enhance life lessons programs and help defray the costs of administration," Walls said. "If a family is impacted by mental illness, whether a parent, grandparent or sibling, they can refer themselves to our group."
Families are referred to the program by school counsellors, the Ministry for Child and Family Development and Vancouver Coastal Health.
For more information about the Resilient Kids and the adolescent program Life Lessons, call the Richmond Canadian Mental Health Association office at 604-276-8834 or visit http: //richmond.cmha.bc.ca/.