The best day of the week

24 Jan 2014

Jan 28 is Bell Canada's "Let's talk" day, aimed at breaking down the stigma of mental illness. Bell will donate five cents to mental health initiatives for calls, texts, tweets and facebook shares. To learn how you can join the conversation and help end stigma visit the Bell Let's Talk Day web site.  

A delicious aroma is filling the house on Steele Street, drawing its occupants into the newly renovated kitchen where Cory, who has recently discovered his passion for cooking and baking, is preparing a meal, excited to serve up the latest recipe to his house mates. 

It's Monday at St. Joseph's St. Steele Street Rehabilitation Residence in St. Thomas, where Cory is one of nine people living and receiving mental health rehabilitation therapy. And it's his night to cook dinner. 

"Monday is my favorite day" he says with a grin. "I like cooking and baking for my house mates - it puts a smile on people's faces. Before I came to Steele Street, I didn't even realize I was good at it. It has really helped me to build self-esteem and confidence." 

Cory, 26, has been in and out of hospital since age 21, struggling with the difficulties of managing both a mental illness and an addiction to alcohol. The seven months he has spent at the group home, however, have already made a huge difference in his rehabilitation and recovery. 

Through the Illness Management Recovery program at the residence, Cory is learning tools and building skills he'll need when he gets back out on his own and living independently in the community. 

"It's not just the cooking abilities that I'm discovering," says Cory. "I'm finding myself here. I'm learning communication skills I didn't have - how to be social, how to feel civilized. I couldn't even speak at family functions before, not unless it was a one-on-one conversation."

Now he's a full and willing participant in the daily and weekly activities at the group home. "Cory has made leaps and bounds in his journey here," says occupational therapist, Jackie McAdams. "I love to watch him in the kitchen, giving cooking tips to the others and collaborating on new recipes to try. He's found a special talent."

Cory stresses that there are many important factors to recovery, including support systems, the proper medication and asking questions. "If you don't ask questions, you won't get the answers. You've got to want to know your sickness. If you don't know what you're suffering from, then how can you recover?"

One of the things he looks forward to most is using the many skills and tools learned at Steele Street to build on relationships with his family members; sharing a meal, sharing conversation, sharing support. 

"I've made it my goal, when I have my own place, to have my grandmother over and my dad, my sister, my mom, put on a good meal for them and just talk and say 'Listen, this is how I'm doing.'"

Cory at Steele Street in December 2013

One of nine residents at St. Joseph's Steele Street rehabilitation residence, Cory is learning about himself, his talents and abilities on his road to recovery- including some impressive skills in the kitchen