Families of mentally ill need help, too, say advocates urging more funding

From The Montreal Gazette

Support groups for those who take care of a mentally ill family member are urging Health Minister Gaétan Barrette to boost financial support to their organizations to meet the rising demand for their services.

Although the Quebec health network provides psychological services to those afflicted with mental illness, there is no formal support system for families. That’s where non-profit community organizations step into the breach, but government subsidies haven’t kept pace with the growing needs, says the director-general of a coalition of support groups.

“The demand for our services is enormous,” said René Cloutier of the Réseau avant de craquer, which represents 39 community organizations across the province.

The Réseau reported a 22-per-cent increase in the number of requests by family members in need of counselling and respite services since last year. Cloutier attributed the increase, in part, to the fact that clinical teams in hospitals are referring more and more family members to community organizations.

Research has shown that one in five people will suffer from a mental illness during their lifetime. And it’s not just the individual with a mental illness who is affected — in eight out of 10 cases, family members and friends are tormented, too.

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