The MHCC’s former Family Caregivers Advisory Committee recognized that friends and family often serve as the primary sources of support for people living with mental illness. To support Canada’s caregivers, the Committee helped to create tools to assist them in sustaining their own mental health and well-being while they care for their loved ones.

Connecting caregivers across Canada
Inspired by CancerConnection—a national peer support program operated by the Canadian Cancer Society—the former Committee initiated Mental Health Family Link, an innovative telephone-based peer support program for family caregivers. A pilot project was completed whereby caregivers seeking support were linked with peer volunteers—ranging from adults with past or present experience as unpaid caregivers to individuals with mental health problems—to facilitate the sharing of experiences, information and resources.

Guidelines of practice for family caregivers
Informed by the results of the Mental Health Family Link project, an unprecedented set of national guidelines that will benefit all caregivers across Canada is now in the final stages of completion. National Guidelines for a Comprehensive Service System for Family Caregivers of Adults with Mental Health Problems and Illnesses will provide caregivers of all ages with evidence-based best practices and anecdotal advice about providing care to a family member with mental illness. The document will also encourage the ongoing review and enhancement of existing family caregiver services and supports.

Targeted to policymakers and service providers, the guidelines will include recommendations on the types of services and supports family caregivers find most useful. They will also emphasize the inclusion of people living with mental illness (and their families) during the planning of caregiver support services. The Committee expects the guidelines to be released in 2013.