©Family Support Institute BC
More than 5.3 million Canadians live with a disability that affects their level of freedom, independence, or quality of life. That amounts to 16 percent of the population, and nearly 13 percent are children. In any given year, one in five Canadians experience a mental illness, and by the time Canadians reach 40 years old, one in two have or have had a mental illness. These families feel lost, alone, and often have nowhere to turn.
Family Support Institute (FSI) is the only grassroots, family-to-family peer support organization focused on disability and mental health combined. For 37 years, FSI has engaged with families who have a family member with a disability through their extensive peer support network located in every region of British Columbia.
With a network of over 250 volunteers, diverse in their backgrounds, abilities, and areas of expertise, FSI is unique in its ability to make connections based on listening, advocacy, guidance, and shared experiences. This model allows families to feel understood and empowered, building hope and empathy while forging long-lasting connections.
This network represents over 14 languages and 12 cultures, with inclusion, equity, and diversity at the top of mind. FSI operates under a simple mission: to support families with family members of any age, any disability, including mental health challenges—no eligibility criteria, meaning no one gets turned away.
Jane called FSI when she felt she had no other options. Her son, born premature and blind with a developmental disability, had been admitted repeatedly to the child psychiatry ward in Northern B.C. by the age of 13. There were no services available in Jane’s community, and she felt she was on the verge of a breakdown.
Jack, a single dad of three kids, called FSI when his daughter with Prader Willie Syndrome faced challenges at school. The school suggested his daughter may not be able to attend anymore due to her significant behavioural challenges, which Jack knew would impact his job and the essential medical benefits for his family, which provides critical medications and equipment for his children.
Dakota called FSI when her eight-year-old twins needed equipment funding due to their complex disabilities. Dakota did not have access to services in her remote Indigenous community on Vancouver Island and was apprehensive about calling the government agencies due to the systemic racism her family had experienced throughout their lives.
All of these families have many things in common: when they called the FSI, they were met and matched with peer support families who understood their journeys and had walked a similar path. They were not judged and instead welcomed and listened to.
Instead of feeling isolated and alone, they found resources, advocacy, and strategies. They had people who truly understood their experiences, people who would not leave their side, attend meetings with them, and journey alongside them. They had found another family.
The Family Support Institute of BC (FSI) is a provincial not for profit society committed to supporting families who have a family member with a disability.
FSI is unique in Canada and the only grass roots family-to-family organization with a broad volunteer base.
FSI’s supports and services are FREE to any family.