Cassandra is proof that you can manage your illness and live successfully after a mental illness diagnosis.
Living with schizoaffective disorder, she worked in a downtown advertising firm in a fast paced environment. She was there for three months and found the constant stress to be too much. “On this particular day at work, the stress felt unimaginable. I thought my co-workers were talking about me. I felt suicidal,” Cassandra explained. “I knew I needed help.”
After reaching out to her director and sharing how she was feeling, she was taken to the CAMH emergency department and was referred to the Partial Hospital Program (PHP), an eight week program that enables clients, who do not require inpatient care, the opportunity to benefit from a structured, intensive, recovery-focused, outpatient program. It had a huge impact on Cassandra’s life.
“In the program there was a focus on wellness and recovery that was tailored to my needs and goals. I learned about my illness, the kind of medication I was taking and how to better manage stress. What I enjoyed the most were the cooking classes and hiking through Trinity Bellwoods Park,” said Cassandra. “The most important thing the program did for me was give me something to do during the day. On days I didn’t feel well, I would have stayed in bed but the program got me out of the house and kept me engaged in the community.”
Near the end of the program, Cassandra worked with her care team on transition planning to lay out how best to continue the support needed to keep her well. Cassandra is now part of CAMH’s LEARN program which provides a range of social, educational, and vocational services for young people with psychosis; LEARN helps clients to find employment, meet their educational goals and become more active socially.
Cassandra knew that going back to work in a stressful environment was not right for her at the moment. She is starting part time work at a local Café and credits the PHP program for getting her back to work so quickly. “It’s a great feeling to be back at work,” Cassandra said. “I’ve made a lot of progress in a short period of time, and hope to possibly start my own business one day. I want people living with mental illness to know there is help out there and you don’t have to suffer in silence.”