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Mental Health

Getting From Where We Are to Where We Want To Be

At this point, future funding of central coordination of the BRIDGES program (including facilitator training) has not been assured. However, the program may still continue to be available in your community. Contact the BC Schizophrenia Society toll-free at 1-888-888-0029 for more information.

Debbie Sesula BA, RTC

Reprinted from "Self-Management" issue of Visions Journal, 2003, 1 (18), p. 44

BRIDGES stands for Building Recovery of Individual Dreams and Goals through Education and Support. The mission of BRIDGES is to empower people with mental illness to take an active and informed role in their treatment and to recover a new sense of purpose in life. BRIDGES is built on the philosophy of recovery, a philosophy that one can live an active and full life even while experiencing psychiatric symptoms.

BRIDGES consists of a 15-week educational course that is taught by people with a mental illness and is attended by people with a mental illness. The curriculum covers key topics such as the basic facts about psychiatric diagnosis and medications, identification of needs, obtaining mental health resources and dimensions of recovery from mental illness. Each class is two-and-a-half hours in length and consists of a classroom format including discussions, class activities and question and answer periods. Learning from each other empowers one with the tools to build their own bridge to recovery.

I have struggled to build my own bridge to recovery for seven years, and becoming involved with BRIDGES was the beginning of my climb out of the grasp of mental illness to a whole new world of recovery and self-management. Instead of letting mental illness control me, I learned to control it. I learned to accept my limitations and to cope when the going got rough, and that despite my illness, that I have a lot to contribute and the skills to match. And despite setbacks, I have what it takes to get back up again. I learned that with BRIDGES, I am not alone.

I have seen first-hand the many changed lives because of BRIDGES. I listened to the excitement in the voice of one gentleman, who for the first time in his life, was able to find employment and keep a job. I heard from a young woman who had been depressed and suicidal, and no longer wants to end her life. I listened to the amazement in one lady’s voice as she shared that she couldn’t even go out for coffee for many years, but has since dealt with her fears and now goes out for coffee quite regularly. I heard from one young gentleman who wouldn’t go anywhere or do anything without his mother, and who now does things for himself and believes in himself. I listened to the inspiration in the voice of one lady who really wanted to go back to school and has since found the courage to do so. I have seen people who could hardly say their own name make it all the way through the course and go on to become a BRIDGES teacher. This is what BRIDGES does for me — I am so rewarded by observing the many changed lives. BRIDGES helps individuals get from where they are to where they want to be.

Since the introduction of BRIDGES in BC, responses from teachers, students, service providers and family members has been very enthusiastic: teachers say the course is fun to teach, students say they are learning things they wanted to know for a long time, service providers and family members tell of the impact BRIDGES is having on their clients and family members.

BRIDGES is open, free of charge, to any person with a mental illness. A referral for BRIDGES is not required. To learn more about BRIDGES and to find out if BRIDGES exists in your community, please contact the BC Schizophrenia Society at 1-888-888-0029.

The Impact of the Program

Based on a 2001 survey,1 the impact of taking the BRIDGES course for participants is as follows:

  • has given me the tools for my recovery (99%)
  • has helped me in my own personal recovery (90%)
  • has given me information about resources I didn’t know about before (78%)
  • has decreased my need for hospitalization (76%)
  • has decreased my need for other crisis services (74%)
  • has increased my socialization (65%)
  • has helped me to be as independent as I can be (64%)
  • has led to new friendships with other students (63%)
  • has decreased my use of mental health services (61%)
  • has increased my support network (57%)
  • has led to my involvement in advocacy (42%)
  • has since led to my obtaining a volunteer position (36%)
  • has since led to my obtaining employment (25%)
  • has led to my becoming a BRIDGES teacher (10%)

The most important curriculum gains for participants included:

  • an understanding of mental illness (21%)
  • knowledge and information (19%)
  • insight (16%)
  • knowing others like me (14%)
  • increased self-esteem (6%)
  • knowledge of resources (6%)
About the author
Debbie Sesula is the Program Coordinator of the BRIDGES Education and Support Program with BC Schizophrenia Society
  1. In 2001, a survey was conducted of past BRIDGES students. Out of 235 BRIDGES graduates from 1996-2001 that were contacted, seventy-two individuals participated in the survey; 72% of the participants were female and 28% were male

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