Because of the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction, many patients at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) receive few, if any, visits, cards or gifts during Christmas.
But because of the Gift of Light campaign and the people who support it, more than $100,000 in gifts are distributed to CAMH clients.
“A lot of patients would not get anything if we didn’t provide these gifts to them and if our supporters didn’t provide these gifts for them,” said Amy Wilkinson, manager of annual giving at CAMH.
The Gifts of Light campaign encourages people to purchase set gifts that will help bring hope and comfort to CAMH patients during Christmas.
This is the fifth year for the gift campaign. In it’s first year, the campaign distributed about 600 gifts to inpatients at CAMH. It was started as a way to bring comfort to people in hospital over the holidays by giving them gifts such as slippers and robes, she said.
Now the program has grown to give 1,700 gifts to CAMH inpatients as well as some outpatient clients living in the community.
“I think a lot of the outpatients, as well, don’t necessarily have the same family support, a lot of families don’t understand mental illness and what their family members might be going through,” she said.
Some out patients have travelled away from family and relocated to Toronto to access the services they need.
“I had one patient who spoke recently to us about how she came to Toronto and CAMH is now her family,” Wilkinson said. “So this is us supporting her over the holidays.”
Anyone can purchase a Gift of Light and let a friend or family member know that a tangible gift has been given on their behalf to a patient at CAMH.
“It is all through donor support,” Wilkinson said. “We couldn’t do it without each and every individual, whether it be a $5 gift or a $500 gift, each bit makes a difference to not only what we can put in these bags, but how many we can give out.”
Gifts fall under three categories: gifts of comfort, which include basic necessities such as a pair of socks or a toothbrush, gloves and pajamas; gifts of caring, which help maintain a connection with friends and loved ones through transit passes, gift cards for coffee and calling cards; and gifts of joy that provide patients with things such as music, puzzle books and stationary that are designed not only to help them relax and enjoy their spare time, but also to help them heal.
You can browse and purchase the Gifts of Light at www.camhgiftsoflight.ca