The North Shore Schizophrenia Society was one of the three original branches of the BC Schizophrenia Society, established in 1983 by the late Dr. Norma Calder. Norma, the mother of two children with schizophrenia, was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the BC Schizophrenia Society in the province at large as well as her own branch. She was inspired by the creation in Ontario of the first self-help group in Canada for families of those suffering with schizophrenia, originally called the Ontario Friends of Schizophrenics. BCSS’s original name, similarly, was the BC Friends of Schizophrenics.The North Shore Branch was incorporated as a branch society, financially independent from the provincial society and solely responsible for the delivery of programs and services.
In early 2008, the membership elected to change the name and structure of the Branch, becoming the North Shore Schizophrenia Society, separate from the BC Schizophrenia Society.
Thanks to the dedication, sheer hard work, and leadership of many family volunteers, the North Shore Schizophrenia Society has become well known in the community and among emergency responders on the North Shore.
One of its most important achievements was the creation of the Family Support Centre in 1995, with funding from the North Shore Health Region which allowed for a full-time employee. The Family Support Centre quickly became a model for the provision of personal support to families of those with serious mental illness and information on major mental illnesses. When the new Health Authority arbitrarily eliminated the Centre’s funding in the spring of 2002, the branch dug down deep to pay the rent and keep the Centre open, albeit with great difficulty. In 2007, the NSSS began a new relationship with the Health Authority and received a modest grant for program delivery.
In the spring of 2008 we began a support group in Squamish for residents of the Sea to Sky Corridor, offered our education course, Family-to-Family, for the first time in 2010. Partnership presentations started for students in Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton in spring 2010 after School District 48 approved the program. We’ve always had a few members in the Squamish-Whistler-Pemberton area. The NSSS Corridor initiative brings availability of some key programs closer to home.
The NSSS has created an endowment fund at the Vancouver Foundation and a separate fund managed directly by NSSS in order to put the operation of the Centre on a sound financial footing. Donations to the NSSS for either of these endowment funds will build on an existing fund, the Janet Morgan Fund, made possible by a significant bequest in 1993.
The North Shore Schizophrenia Society, through some of its members, has also been active in advocacy matters. Major issues have revolved around strengthening and protecting the BC Mental Health Act to ensure that those suffering from serious mental illness receive the treatment they need. Advocacy on behalf of those with mental illness and their families remains a major interest of the society.