12/20/2013 09:05 EST | Updated 02/19/2014 05:59 EST

How We Help Vancouver's Mentally Ill During The Holidays

As the holiday season approaches, many will enjoy the festivities with family and friends but other people in Vancouver will be hurting. Those living with mental illness can find this time of year challenging and our clients at The Kettle Society often find the holidays to be the loneliest time of year. Many are estranged from family and we notice a significant increase in those reaching out for mental health support services in December and January.

Vancouver's mayor and police chief recently pleaded for help in curbing the city's mental health crisis, and the government recently dedicated $20-million to help the mentally ill in Vancouver. We experience the need first hand, every day. Although this government funding will not support The Kettle's work in the community, it's good to see the additional resources. At The Kettle, we hope to expand our Venables Street drop-in centre as we're lacking the space to provide much needed support to those in need. We will not turn anyone away, but it's not easy. We would also like to add a housing component for the Grandview Woodland community as many are desperate for housing as well as treatment.

Most services are closed on December 25th, but we stay open. Everyone feels accepted and at home here. On Christmas Day we host a turkey lunch with all the trimmings, table cloths and décor. Depending on public donations, we give out small gifts like gloves, socks and boxes of chocolates. We want everyone to feel valued.

The Kettle Friendship Society is a non-profit organization that provides housing, support as well as employment services to 3,600 people every year. The Kettle currently provides a mental health drop-in centre, a transition house for women, an onsite medical clinic, 26 programs and more than 200 units of supported housing that gets people off the street.

People living with mental illness are often alone and isolated over the holidays. The 200 members who attend consider The Kettle their home and that's why we put on Christmas Day lunch every year. It's moving to see members sitting down together over a wonderful turkey lunch, lending a friendly ear and supporting each other.

To learn more about how you can support our holiday season efforts, visit us online.