Working to Create a New Treatment Model for Serious Mental Illness


Self-help sites, mental wellness apps, drop-in centres and phone-in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) are all new tools for people feeling low on the mental health spectrum. But what of young adults with serious mental illness? At nineteen, they have transitioned out of children’s health care services and require a range of targeted approaches to care that differ from those geared to older adults.

A group of Toronto professionals are taking action to bridge the gap that exists in mental health care in Ontario for 18 – 35 year olds with serious mental illness.

“Our son Eli began to struggle with depression in his teens and then Bipolar Disorder. At first, psychiatric care and medication helped, but, his illness worsened. For Eli, mental illness set up insurmountable obstacles to living a normal life. When he could no longer fight the battle he took his life just days before his 31st birthday. It is through our loss, that we Eli’s parents, were led to create the vision we call Eli’s Place,” says co-founder David Cooper.

“We believe a recovery model of mental illness through a therapeutic rural residential program is part of the solution to today’s mental health care crisis.” – Eli’s Place co-founder, David Cooper

The Recovery Model Views Mental Illness From A Different Perspective

The recovery model of mental illness is seen as a complementary approach to psychiatric care. It does not focus on full symptom resolution but emphasizes resilience and control over problems and life. The recovery process provides:

  •  A holistic view of people with mental illness that focuses on the person, not just their symptoms.
    It aims to help people with mental illness and distress look beyond mere survival and existence.
  • It encourages them to move forward and set new goals.
  • Recovery is not about ‘getting rid’ of problems but enabling a person to see beyond their mental health problems, recognizing and fostering their abilities, interests and dreams. The recovery model adds a new dimension to care and allows for people with severe mental illness to take control of their lives and give it meaning.

According to Dr. Howard Hamer, former Medical Director of the Function and Pain program at the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada, this model has been used for injured workers with chronic pain for decades. “There is, however, a dangerous gap for young adults with serious mental illness as the availability of a residential treatment center where doctors can refer patients simply does not exist in Canada.”

Eli’s Place To Be A First In Canada

Eli’s Place will be a long-term residential treatment center with families playing a key role. Supported by a team of psychologists, social workers, nurses, a consulting psychiatrist, therapeutic arts specialists, and farming staff, the multi-phase program will include:

  • Individualized, therapeutic treatment.
  • A range of recovery-based programs that respond to and build on participants’ strengths.
  • Activities to build competencies to move from illness to resilience and develop the life and work skills to reclaim a healthy life.
  • Support for graduated transition back to the community and up to two years of in community support.

Eli’s Place will introduce evidence-based recovery opportunities for young adults in crisis. Today the rate of illness is high. The costs are not limited to financial (emergency department visits, hospital admissions and legal issues), but carry a human cost to individuals, families and society that is unacceptable. A non-profit organization, Eli’s Place is raising funds to secure a rural site and develop the centre.

It will take a multimillion dollar sum to design, build, and operate Eli’s Place. As a result, the Founders Campaign is a drive to kickstart community support to establish Eli’s Place.

By making a gift of $1,000 or more in the year, through a single donation or smaller installments each month, a donor will become a Founder – a special group of people who are helping to establish this much-needed place for young adults who have mental health and addiction issues. For more information on how you can support us through the Founders Campaign, contact 416-483-4807 or

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This March, CanadaHelps will make an additional one-time donation of $20 for every new monthly gift of $20 or more in support of Eli’s Place!*