In 2018, Joseph Laird fell into a pit of utter apathy. He had no interests at the time, he was barely speaking to anyone and work made him extremely anxious. He was fed up with the way he was thinking and living, but he couldn't get out of that depressed state.
At one point, family members suggested he try anti-depressants. Although he was initially apprehensive about taking the medication, eventually he decided to give them a try. However, while his medication lifted him out of depression, he quickly spiralled into mania – which ultimately resulted in his hospitalization.
“I went into isolation," he recalls. “I was immediately put on lithium and anti-psychotic/anti-anxiety meds. It took me about three weeks to get out of the hospital."
After discharge, Joseph was referred to the Vancouver/Richmond Early Psychosis Intervention (EPI) Program, a multidisciplinary team aimed at helping young people in the early phase of psychosis. There, he was paired with psychiatrist and medical coordinator Dr. Diane Fredrikson.
“EPI has been helping me with understanding my bipolar condition," Joseph says. “Dr. Fredrikson has helped me analyze mental health issues. The most valuable thing I've learned is that there is hope for people who've experienced [psychosis]."
The support Joseph received from his mother, Anne Laird, has also been an integral part of his recovery.
"Watching our son suffer the effects of mental illness has been the most difficult thing," she says. "Not knowing how to help him, where to turn, has been frustrating."
At EPI, Anne took part in family information sessions, which she found informative and educational.
"Dr. Fredrikson has been the most helpful because she offered knowledgeable treatment options," says Anne. "She clearly cares about our son and has given us hope where there was none before."
For Joseph, participating in the upcoming Me and My Doc Talks session is a valuable experience.
“I think it's important for staff to understand the perspective of someone who has lived through an experience that is impossible to fully explain, and to be as open as possible to the voice of the individual."
Dr. Fredrikson has been working with Joseph and Anne at EPI throughout the different phases of his illness and recovery.
“We provide psychiatric care, case management, education and psychosocial support," she says of the program. “Many of our patients also have families and loved ones who are actively involved in their circle of care."
She believes discussions and events like Me and My Doc Talks provide staff, physicians and clients with an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on the complexities involved in mental health care, and appreciate the personal nuances of illness, treatment, therapeutic engagement and recovery.
“In my experience, exploring these factors is important in developing a personalized medicine approach to optimize treatment and recovery for any given individual," says Dr. Fredrikson.
Her hope for these sessions is to help shed light on the reality of mental illness for clients, and to provide them with a platform to share their story.
“We would like to give a personal voice to the experience of psychosis treatment and recovery," she says. “As well as inspire hope to others in their own recovery journey."
The Me and My Doc Talks series was created by Erika Weikle, who works as a care coordinator for VCH, after her own experiences with mental health and addiction. Inspired by the great relationship she had with her doctor, Dr. Andrzej Koczapski during this time, she hopes these sessions will help open lines of communication between physicians, staff and clients, and provide an opportunity to consider how stigma around mental illness and substance use impacts our health care system today.
When: Friday, October 25, 2019
Time: 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Facilitated by: Dr. Randall F. White, MD, FRCPC, Medical Director, Vancouver Community Mental Health Services
Featuring: Joseph Laird and his mother Anne Laird, on their lived experience, with Dr. Diane Fredrikson, MD, FRCPC, Team Physician Manager, Vancouver/Richmond Early Psychosis Intervention (EPI) Program
Who: The event is open to the public, physicians and staff – everyone is encouraged to attend!
Videoconference: [Link no longer available] – Enter ID #30217. If you cannot attend in person, please note that the session will be recorded and available for viewing at this link the following week.
Download the Me and My Doc Talks Session 5 event poster - PDF
Interested in attending this event? Please RSVP by email to Erika.Weikle@vch.ca