Pathways Serious Mental Illness Society – previously known as 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 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.
Thanks to the dedication and leadership of Marguerite and Herschel Harden, the BC Schizophrenia Society North Shore Branch became well known in the community. With the commitment of the devoted and hardworking volunteers many North Shore families were given understanding and hope.
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.
In early 2008, the membership elected to change the structure and name of the Branch, becoming the North Shore Schizophrenia Society, separate from the BC Schizophrenia Society. The society was based on three pillars, support, education and advocacy.
The Society began a support group in Squamish for residents of the Sea to Sky Corridor, and in 2010 offered the Family-to-Family education course along with Partnership presentations for students in Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton.
In October 2017 the name was changed to Pathways Serious Mental Illness Society.
The education and support programs were expanded into Vancouver and the Tri-Cities. Covid-19 in 2020 required Pathways to move to an online platform to deliver both it’s courses and to provide ongoing support. This proved successful as education classes expanded to five locations including the Sunshine Coast and Nanaimo and four support groups per month. Pathways has been active in advocacy on behalf of those with mental illness and their families.
An endowment fund was created with the Vancouver Foundation along with a separate fund managed directly by Pathways in order to put the operations on a sound financial footing. Donations to Pathways for either of these endowment funds will build on an existing fund, the Janet Morgan Fund, made possible by a significant bequest in 1993.
Pathways has a long history of educating, supporting and advocating for families with a loved one experiencing a serious mental illness.