If you think genetic counselling is all about blood samples and analysis for disease prevention, think again! That’s just one part of this expanding field. One of Victoria Cool Aid Society’s tenants, Wayne Sheeran, experienced firsthand the many benefits of genetic counselling through meeting with the genetic counsellor Prescilla Carrion.
Wayne did a series of three counselling sessions with Prescilla to uncover some surprising connections between his genetics and the experiences in his life, including mental health challenges.
Cool Aid was fortunate to have Prescilla as part of a University of British Columbia research project on the value of integrating genetic counselling into primary care. Genetic counselling is typically provided through care within specialized or clinical genetics settings and this project is the only one like it in Canada.
Prescilla appreciated Cool Aid’s ongoing support as a home base for the genetic counselling service. She plans to continue her important work exploring the value of embedding a genetic counsellor in primary care and making this service available to clients whenever it may be helpful.
For Wayne, it started with conversations around the creation and analysis of his family tree – something he had wanted to explore for most of his life. He says that the experience of doing that in a safe space with Prescilla was very positive and that he felt free to be vulnerable and transparent.
What Wayne started to realize was that the mental health challenges he has faced throughout his life were linked to his family of origin and his experiences early on. Like many people, mental health was never discussed in his family which left him feeling lost. Wayne and Prescilla reviewed the picture of his family tree, noting mental illness in many family members, including those who may have gone undiagnosed and who were in denial of the mental health challenges – challenges that left a lasting impression on Wayne.
Wayne considers himself lucky that access to genetic counselling, through Cool Aid, has led to a new awareness of his personal history, all the way back to childhood. Genetic counselling has provided him with a new set of tools to understand and manage his own mental health and has allowed him to let go of past hurt, pain and shame to find hope in the future.
To help others like Wayne, please consider donating to the Victoria Cool Aid Society. You can donate at coolaid.org/donate or call (250) 383-1977 today!