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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

New CAMH office “a lifeline and voice” for patients’ families

TORONTO, March 31, 2017 - ​Family members supporting a loved one through mental health or addiction challenges can reach a point “where we are feeling at our lowest,” said Pauline Lefebvre-Hinton. “I remember that feeling,” she told participants at the launch of CAMH’s new Office of Family Engagement (OFE) in March.

Pauline recalled a time when feelings of desperate concern about a loved one merged with confusion about where to turn for help. “This new resource centre at CAMH can be a refuge, a lifeline,” she said. “It gives us a place of support and a voice.”

Pauline Lefebvre and Jan Stewart
“Giving families a voice:” Pauline Lefebvre-Hinton with fellow working group member Jan Stewart at the launch in March.

Pauline is playing a key role in CAMH’s new family engagement office -- not just as a working group member, and a professional who specializes in human rights and equity, but as a person who has been there in those dark moments.

About 15 years ago, Pauline’s husband Jim was suffering from clinical depression and addiction. “I was afraid for him but also struggling to keep it together and understand the situation, and know how best to advocate for him. He was in treatment but I felt isolated.”

Turning points

Pauline contacted CAMH and was able to attend part of an assessment meeting with Jim. “A turning point for him was when CAMH began to treat both the depression and addiction concurrently,” she recalls. A turning point for Pauline herself was when she became involved with the CAMH Family Council, a predecessor to the new OFE. “I got myself educated on these issues, and really found a refuge, a place where I could interact with others going through the same journey.”

At the OFE launch event last week, Pauline described three key elements of the new OFE at CAMH: 1)  a Family Advisory Committee to bring the voice of families to CAMH’s clinical care; 2) improved “navigation” support for families through the mental health system; and 3) a dedicated Family Resource Centre located at CAMH’s Queen Street site. The centre provides information resources, advice, and connection with professionals, volunteers and other family members.

CAMH President and CEO Dr. Catherine Zahn noted that the new centre is “not just a physical space but an institution that can reach out and play a pivotal role for our families and patients.” She also described the centre’s broad and inclusive view of family – which may include a patient’s biological and extended family, friends, neighbors, caregivers, teachers and many others.

Staff celebrate opening
From Left: CAMH’s Dr. Ivan Silver, Dr. Rani Srivastava, Janet Mawhinney, Dr. Catherine Zahn, working group member Pauline Lefebvre-Hinton, Miriam McCann, Ann Pottinger, and working group member Jan Stewart

CAMH Education Vice President Dr. Ivan Silver told the group that “this is personal for me. I know how important it is for families to be able to get information and navigate the mental health system.  CAMH is rededicating itself to serve and acknowledge families as true partners in care.” The launch follows an extensive consultation and review of best practices on family engagement.


Staff cut cake during launch of Family Engagement Office 
We are family: CAMH’s Janet Mawhinney, Miriam McCann and Jacquelyn Waller-Vintar do the honors to cut the cake launching the new Office of Family Engagement. The cake featured words associated with “family” in many different languages.


CAMH Advanced Practice Clinical Leader Miriam McCann heads up the new OFE. She said the resource centre, located at 100 Stokes Street in CAMH’s Bell Gateway Building, is “a dedicated, welcoming space for family members to get information and make connections.”  Miriam has recently brought a group of volunteers on board and is creating a web space for the new centre.

Pauline is working for the Ontario Nurses’ Association and her husband Jim is well established in his recovery journey. At the OFE launch event, “I felt that emotion come back to me about the tough times,” Pauline says. “I’m looking forward to helping others who are facing those challenges today.”

For more information: on CAMH’s new Office of Family Engagement:

Check out our Facebook live video feed from this event!

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