Marina’s Picks is a regular feature from CanadaHelps CEO, Marina Glogovac, highlighting some of the many charities she is personally passionate about. As a champion for smaller charities, Marina wants to help fellow Canadians discover some of the lesser known organizations that are working to make our communities better. Content note: this blog discusses serious mental illness and suicide.
The pandemic has put so many people at risk for mental illness, and made those already vulnerable to it even moreso. But once this crisis abates, the need for mental illness support will not go away. This is a topic that is close to my heart. I have mental illness on both sides of my family, and as a young adult I struggled with it as well. When I was young, parents were embarrassed to share their children’s struggles. Though we have made so much progress, the stigma still persists in Canada. During COVID, school closures and other infection control measures have separated young people from many of their usual support systems. As a mother, I worry about the impact of mental illness on young lives — how teens and young adults can often fall through the cracks, and the damage untreated illness can have on their futures. So I was particularly interested to learn about a new approach to treating serious mental illness in Canada when I spoke with Ellis Katsof, Executive Director of Eli’s Place.
Eli’s Place is a start-up charity preparing to become the first rural residential long-term treatment and recovery program for young adults who are 18 to 35 and are living with serious mental illness. 1 in 5 adults will have mental illness during their life, but 1 in 25 will have a serious mental illness which means it will interfere with their lifelong lifestyle. Their goal is to not just treat the illness, but to help these young adults live with their illness and integrate critical strategies into their everyday lives so they can reach their full potential.
Founded nine years ago by parents who knew the pain of mental illness all too well, David and Deborah Cooper sought to create a different type of treatment and recovery program in Canada. Their son, Eli, was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and eventually bipolar disorder in his late teens. Despite many attempts at healing through community, residential, and institution-based treatment, nothing worked for Eli. Just shy of his 31st birthday, he died by suicide. Tragically, the Coopers’ story is not unique.
The Coopers and a group of dedicated volunteers saw a huge gap in Canada’s treatment options, and identified an evidence-based, residential treatment model to bring to Canada. Based on Gould Farm—a 100+ year old program located in Massachusetts—Eli’s Place will open as a community-focused, six-month residential farm program that incorporates therapy, skills training, specialized care that will offer a path to recovery for people in this underserved age group. The residents will live and eat together as a community, and go out to work programs such as vegetable farming or trail building during the day to integrate their mental health challenges into a regular daily lifestyle. So for example, if while in a work program a resident has an anxiety attack, they’ll be able to get support while they’re working from other residents and staff — something that would be impossible in the outside world. Eventually, residents will learn to integrate coping strategies into everyday activities to live a more successful life after they leave the farm.
Eli’s Place aims to help these individuals, and also reduce the broader impacts on society of untreated mental illness. Ellis told me they’ve done research that demonstrates they can save the government more than 27 million in a five-year period by reducing reliance on social services, healthcare and the justice system.
While COVID has meant the charity had to put its plans to buy a property on hold after funding commitments became a challenge, they are still working towards opening this truly special mental illness treatment program — the only of its kind in Canada — in two years.
To learn more about Eli’s Place and support their work, visit Eli’s Place’s Charity Profile Page.
I encourage you to check out and support this inspirational charity that is working so hard to support the community it works in. Learn more about Eli’s Place on their website, or make a gift through their CanadaHelps Charity Profile.