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A Labour of Love

By Jeff Kraemer
Network, Winter 2007

Tara Marttinen was diagnosed with first-episode psychosis in 1997. While she and her mother, Terry-Lee, travelled to London, Ontario, so Tara could be treated at the Prevention and Early Intervention Program for Psychoses a couple of times a year โ€“ it was 800 kilometres away from their home in Sault Ste. Marie โ€“ she only had access to medical management, not the year-round psychosocial services for youths and their families. As a result, they ‘really lacked a sense of community,’ Terry-Lee says. They also saw a need for widely available, accessible information, since Terry-Lee found that clinical resources were ‘buried in medical journals’ and ‘certainly weren’t anything that my daughter needed or could relate to.’

Terry-Lee ‘started doodling’ and put together a website. Tara contributed information on the healing power of art. In fact, Terry-Lee says, art became an important component of Tara’s recovery, and when they redeveloped the site with help from the Ontario Working Group on Early Intervention in Psychosis, they expanded it to include personal stories and art from young people who have experienced psychosis. The result is Get Help Early (www.gethelpearly.ca). The site covers the clinical, youth and family perspectives on early psychosis, ranging from information on diagnosis, treatment and recovery to personal issues such as friendship and sexuality. There’s also a discussion of how art can heal and a remarkable animated gallery featuring paintings, textile art and poems.

Tara, as co-producer, developed the new material in part by working with other young people and family members who had lived with psychosis. Online, the personal stories and the art build the sense of community that Tara and Terry-Lee had felt was missing. Not only that, Terry-Lee adds, they provide inspiration.

‘We really hope that people will submit stories and share them with one another,’ says Terry-Lee, ‘because that’s a huge element of recovery.’

Jeff Kraemer is the e-content developer for CMHA Ontario.

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