July 30, 2021
“I wasn’t sleeping at all, had chronic paranoia (I thought someone was following me and I looked around all the time). I also had depression, anxiety, lack of concentration but once I took the medicine I calmed down, but I was so calm that I was too tired to do anything.”
Cameron Carr was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was just 18 years old, in 1979 and later PTSD.
Originally from Ontario, he received some treatment there, before coming to Vancouver. He eventually found a home and the right supports at Coast Mental Health’s Coastview apartments two and a half years ago.
A home with the right supports
Operated by Coast Mental Health in partnership with BC Housing, Coastview provides supportive housing for people living with mental illness who are 55 or over.
Supports offered to residents include daily dinner, weekly housekeeping and linens laundry, a 24-hour Lifeline monitoring system, assistance with medications, and social and recreational activities.
Staff work with folks on their individual needs and use the Recovery Star tool to help identify areas of strength or that they wish to develop. This includes self-care, living skills, social networks, and community involvement.
For people living with mental illness, recovery is an ongoing process, and being surrounded with a team that understands is crucial.
"I was ill but I’m recovering now personally. And when I’ve acted out a few times… they’ve been tolerant,” explains Cameron. “[There’s always] somebody who I can talk to. I have lots of talks with staff.
“If you have a need, they look after you if something’s wrong. Through all of this pandemic they’ve been very upbeat and they seem to know their business pretty good,” he adds.
When he was younger, Cameron wrote and illustrated poetry. Having a stable home has enabled Cameron to re-explore his artistic side.
“I can indulge myself like painting, also playing music and nobody complains. I play about 8 instruments: saxophone, clarinet, flute, diatonic and chromatic harmonic, some guitar, some piano, penny whistle, fife with 6 holes – this is a really old instrument.
“And now I have a keyboard in my room, I also play along music with my computer. I teach myself melodic, melodeon.
“I also wrote one book about 'The First 8 years of my experience of having schizophrenia' – 250 pages. I’m working on a second book – similar type of book but more creative, more poetry and illustrations. I am doing illustrations too."
And Cameron is also giving back to the community and educating those around him.
“Two winters ago, I did lecturing to 5-6 students in the hospital. So I talk about my future mainly, medicines and behaviors and society and people who are administering care.”
“A home with the right supports can be life-changing for people experiencing mental health conditions,” said Danielle Scott, Director, Supportive Housing & Programs at BC Housing.
Cameron is just one of the almost 6,000 people who can access critical services and support thanks to the collaborative work of Coast Mental Health, BC Housing, health authorities, community partners and generous donors
“Just thank you and thanks for having me,” he finishes.