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Counsellor Christina speaks with Dawn
November 26, 2019

Family matters in mental health

Dawn is a registered social worker. She knows much more than the average person about mental health and helping people in distress. But when her eldest son’s mental health issues emerged, she felt lost.

“It was emotional for our entire family,” she says. “We needed help learning how to support our son through this.”

“Increasing family and caregiver involvement is a priority in our program”

Dawn and her partner both took part in Emotion Focused Family Therapy (EFFT), a unique program offered in the Child and Youth Mental Health Program at McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH). The program provides group and one-on-one training to parents and caregivers so they can process their own emotions about their child’s illness, and learn skills to help their child cope.

“Increasing family and caregiver involvement is a priority in our program,” says Lori Issenman, director of the Child and Youth Mental Health program at MCH. “Research shows that when families are involved, young people with mental health issues do better.”

A first in our area

McMaster Children’s Hospital is the first publicly-funded mental health service in our region to offer this evidence-based program. The generous support of Foundation partners like ArcelorMittal Dofasco has enabled MCH to train more than 60 staff and doctors in EFFT. They’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from families. More than 98 per cent of participants said they were either extremely or very likely to recommend the program to others.

“It was emotional, powerful, practical and really helpful,” says Dawn. “The program helped us work through our feelings and develop skills to help our son through different scenarios.”

In addition to building better connections with parents and caregivers, the Child and Youth Mental Health Program is increasing collaboration with other services both at MCH and throughout the community.

“Mental health care requires a shared approach,” says Issenman. “We are lucky to have one of Canada’s most comprehensive Child and Youth Mental Health programs. We’re sharing our expertise and working with partners so we can serve the community even better.”