When I was asked by a close friend to serve on the Board of Eli’s Place, I was still quite raw from my own daughter’s death. Tamara was extremely intelligent and desperately wanted to get the help she needed. Most acutely, she wanted to establish a consistent ongoing relationship with a professional who knew her and could offer comprehensive treatment beyond pharmacology. This did not happen in the system that existed. In an article I wrote for the Walrus magazine in 2017 entitled, “Death by a Thousand Cuts: How an army of mental health professionals let my daughter down”, I detail our journey. I know this devastating and all too common journey profoundly well.
“Suicide is like a bomb going off in a family, and everyone gets hit with shrapnel.” –Carol Cowan-Levine
As a professional clinician, I have a sense of urgency. I want to see Eli’s Place happen because I know a vital piece of the mental health system is missing. As a mother and a professional who spent several years tending to a daughter with mental illness, I have observed how Canadian attitudes toward mental health have evolved. Policymakers are coming to understand that clearly our system needs more money, more doctors, and more resources. Even so, a patient can spend many, many, months in the labyrinth of mental health care, waiting to receive appropriate and consistent treatment.
“One of the worst defects of our mental health system—something that cannot be measured in dollars, manpower, or waiting periods—is its astonishingly fragmented nature. To understand this, you have to experience this from the inside. Those of us unfortunate enough to have done so might describe it as death by a thousand cuts.” –Carol Cowan-Levine
By stepping up to lead Eli’s Place, I had to put my crushing personal story aside and block out everything related to hold my pain at bay because I wanted to build something new, to make it better, so other families might never have to go through what my daughter and family went through. We are the survivors, tragically she is not, so I speak for her. Eli’s Place, with its long-term, rural, residential, recovery and transition components will make a tremendous difference. I believe we can do this together. But it is absolutely necessary to do this NOW! I am asking you to join me today. Your support means we can make Eli’s Place a reality and help young adults with serious mental illness who so desperately need the treatment, therapeutic community and skill development we will offer.
Both professionally and personally, I believe in the model we wish to establish which offers three essential things: consistency in relationship; a critical sense of belonging; and purposeful activity. These three pillars of support resoundingly differentiate Eli’s Place from what is offered today. The other vitally important component is that this is a transferable model, built to be replicated across the country. Additionally, as we work with clients, we will carefully evaluate and garner research to improve our practice and benefit other communities.
In the next two years we must establish a physical presence and concretize all that we hope to be. We are now in the process of searching for property. Four years out we plan to be fully operational. That is why your support today is so crucial. We are at a critical juncture in the development of Eli’s Place. Now is the time to make the final push to put a stake in the ground and actualize Eli’s Place.
It’s much more than a nice idea, it’s a vital service that has been missing from the mental health landscape. Eli’s Place will improve the lives of the clients we serve and effect enormous cost reduction outcomes in the healthcare system.
Right now, everyone is saying we need “more” for mental health. I continue to replay the words of Dr. Leanna Wen from George Washington University who said during the dark days of Covid: “Soon is not a timeline, more is not a quantity and hope is not a strategy”. Eli’s Place has the strategy—now is the time! Please join me in making your donation to help make Eli’s Place a reality.
Carol Cowan-Levine, Chair
P.S. It’s necessary, it’s essential, we have to save lives and YOU can help. Donate today!