Meet Tara, a mother to an adult son living with mental illness

"It just breaks your heart… it tears you apart. You feel your child's suffering very profoundly, and of course, you want to fix it."

Meet Tara, a mother to an adult son living with mental illness.

On a cold October night, in the dark days of the global pandemic, Tara paced outside in the rain. Tara had flown to Ottawa to help her son who was in crisis, but she didn't know what to do.

"I was really lost; I was beside myself. I didn't want to make things worse, and I didn't want to call the police. But I wanted to get some help somehow."

Tara made a number of phone calls and eventually spoke to Paula of The Royal's Psychiatric Outreach Team. Thankfully, Paula was there to provide help to Tara and her son, because of funding from The Royal's generous donors.

I'm asking you to help people like Tara's son. Your gift of $50 will provide someone in crisis with one session with a mental health professional; your gift of $80 will help someone get back on their feet. And your generous donation of $150 will give people struggling with mental illness the opportunity to heal. 

As a compassionate and caring person, can I count on you to make a gift today?

Or, consider providing help as a monthly donor. For as little as $20 a month (that's only 65 cents a day!) you will provide life-changing help to people like Tara and her son all year round. 

"It's really wonderful, when you're all alone in the wilderness, to have that resource available," says Tara. "It's absolutely fantastic."

Thanks to the support of caring donors like you, The Royal's Community Mental Health Program (CMHP) can deliver mental health services out in the community. 

The Psychiatric Outreach Team is just one part of CMHP's multi-faceted program. The dedicated and empathetic staff at CMHP work with clients in their own homes, and bring mental health services directly to individuals living on society's margins.

Your gift will fund CMHP's range of life-changing services: outreach, assessment, consultation, training and education, treatment, and a host of supports that fall under the "other" category, such as helping clients find work or housing, or reconnecting with family.

"I'm planting a seed," says Steven Walsh, a psychiatric outreach nurse, about his work. "I plant information and open up new ideas, so people who live on the margins of society can come back to me a week or two later, so I can help them get the next level of support."

One of the first things Steven says when meeting with a new patient is: "I'm not here to give you any advice."

Steven works with homeless or marginally housed folks living with severe mental health issues, so this statement often comes as a surprise.

Steven explains to his clients: "Look, you're here. You've made it through all this stuff we're about to talk about, so you've obviously got lots of strengths. I'm here to listen to you very carefully, add in some questions, and try to get out of you what you think you need. Then I'm going to help you find that."

Staff of The Royal's Psychiatric Outreach Team work in dozens of organizations across the city in any given week. They work with shelters, drop-ins, community health centres, family resource centres, Indigenous service providers, and social housing. 

It's a team of 10, comprised of nurses and social workers, serving the mental health needs of homeless people or those who are marginally housed.

"I work with people who are on the margins: people who are in rooming houses, subsidized housing, shelters, couch surfing, maybe even directly on the streets. These people had families, had connections, but something is happening in their lives."

"The Psychiatric Outreach Team can help the family members of these folks — on the phone, allowing them to vent, let them understand the resources, or explain where the person may be at."

Steven doesn't like to think about what would happen to his clients if the Psychiatric Outreach Team didn't exist.

"These folks haven't had the chance to have a voice, and often they get lost in the woodwork. Unless they have an acute mental health crisis or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, they hide in the woodwork. The Psychiatric Outreach Team guides people to where they want to go." 

"My colleagues and I can open the doors for these folks so they can get the help they think they need," explains Steven. 

Tara recalls that bleak time with her son last fall. "Without help from the Psychiatric Outreach Team, I would have felt completely lost. But they were there to give me access to information, taught me coping skills, and made me feel that I wasn't alone. Which I thought was incredible."

The Psychiatric Outreach Team opened doors for Tara's son to give him access to the support he wanted.

"I was very impressed by the Psychiatric Outreach Team," says Tara. "I thought, I'm going to donate some money to them. They are very skilled people on that team."

Will you join Tara in making a donation to support the life-changing work of the Psychiatric Outreach Team? 

Your gift will allow Steven and his colleagues to continue to help those living in the margins. Your gift will save the lives of people like Tara's son.

Thank you for being a mental health hero.

With sincere thanks,

Chris Ide Signature

Chris Ide
Royal Ottawa Foundation