Peer Support in the Douglas and Jewish General Hospital ERs

AMI-Quebec offers information and support to caregiving families who go to the Emergency room of the Douglas Institute or the Jewish General Hospital with a relative or friend in crisis.  A family peer support worker with caregiving experience meets one on one with families. Their role is to listen and support caregiving families going through a time of crisis. Depending on the needs of the caregivers, they may share coping skills or orient them toward additional useful resources in their community. Based on their own experience and on their knowledge of the hospital organization they can also provide information about the hospital treatment units, the role of an emergency unit, privacy laws, rights of patients, and court order procedures.

For more information about the Family Peer Support Service in the ER, call AMI-Quebec: 514-486-1448.

Peer Support in the ER is a project piloted by AMI-Quebec in partnership with the Douglas Mental Health University Institute and the Jewish General Hospital. 

Navigating Crisis: From Isolation to Peer Support

By Dahlia Eldaly, AMI-Quebec FPSW at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute

Fear, hopelessness, anxiety, and distress are common emotions caregivers experience. The unknown triggers constant worry that looms like a permanent dark cloud over a caregiver’s head. Even during a period of calm and relative stability, the worrying thoughts may linger.

A crisis is a time of intense difficulty shaped by uncertainty and internal chaos. For a caregiver, navigating the murky waters of a crisis can feel overwhelming and insurmountable. A caregiver might attempt to conceal certain feelings from their ill loved one for fear of causing further concern. Despite their good intentions, they might express frustration given the bewildering and perplex nature of the situation. Or, most incapacitating, they might surrender to severe guilt. Whether a caregiver displays an air of calm or a state of panic, below the surface may lay turmoil and a sense of disorientation.

Once the decision is made to walk through the doors of a psychiatric emergency room, there may be a series of complex and conflicting emotions and thoughts that arise, especially for a first-time episode. Was it the right choice? Will I finally experience some respite? Will my loved one consent to emergency treatment? Is recovery forthcoming?

It is important to remember that a caregiver is allowed to be vulnerable and scared despite their responsibilities. Denying those feelings can lead to increased isolation and amplified anguish. For this reason, the Family Peer Support Worker at the emergency is available to meet with family members in order to create a space for them to talk openly, without judgment, and receive information on available community resources that could help during and after an emergency room visit.

The support offered by the peer is guided by beliefs in hope, healing, empowerment, and recovery. The FPSW holds a safe place for family members to express their concerns and inquiries. She provides empathetic validation and reassurance. The support provided by the FPSW within the fast-paced dynamic of the emergency can be instrumental in helping families to sail across a crisis as smoothly as possible.

Since the FPSW has lived experience as a caregiver, there is mutuality and solidarity that is established–a powerful bond, however brief. While the FPSW can provide momentary relief or more, the goal is to plant a seed of hope for family members to better cope with their situation.