Child and Youth Mental Health Day, which is May 7, was born from heartbreak, and the determination to not let history repeat itself.
Keli Anderson founded FamilySmart18 years ago after meeting another mom who lost her teenage son to suicide. Anderson’s son, who has bipolar had just come out of the hospital himself at 10-years-old and she was determined to ensure her son’s life was not cut short as well.
The non-profit is a unique organization that supports parents and families in B.C. with 34 of 36 employees whose children or youth have struggled with mental health and/or substance use challenges. This approach gives families that are dealing with mental health challenges unique advice and a perspective into how to navigate through struggles.
“We need to have a strong infrastructure to do this kind of work, we have built it based on experience,”Anderson said.
Anderson is still motivated to ensure that no one feels as alone in their struggle as she did when her son was growing up.
“I think one of the greatest things when you are doing this kind of work is, that there’s this chance that you get to be humbled by something that is bigger for you. For me, in this work every day is humbling. I know from our own family how hard it was but I also appreciate that families don’t have to be alone the way I felt 20 years ago,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s son is now 30 and leads a full life, but she has no desire to slow down in her work. Previous clients return to later be a part of the program in a different way and become leaders for other families in need.
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