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I wouldn’t be alive without Dignity House, says grateful client

Nicholas and Kim Darceuil’s Dignity House was named Best Psychiatric Facility of 2022 by Corporate LiveWire, a UK company (Photograph supplied)

Veronica’s husband died suddenly. A short while later, her son was killed.

Added to that, she was homeless.

Having suffered from depression throughout her life, it became difficult to manage.

Erica was also struggling. She was molested as a child and because of anxiety and a borderline personality disorder was in and out of the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute. Plus, she was an addict.

Both women believe Dignity House, the residential rehabilitation programme that Kim and Nicholas Darceuil launched last year, saved their life.

They are not alone in their thinking. The programme received a Prestige Award and the title of Best Psychiatric Facility 2022 from the UK company Corporate LiveWire.

The annual awards are given to “market leaders, innovators and enterprising start-ups through in-depth research, word of mouth and first-hand experiences”.

Erica, a 41-year-old mother-of-two, is certain she would not be alive without the Pembroke facility.

“I know that my depression, mixed with the anxiety, mixed with drug use, all trying to cope with each other – I didn’t even realise that I might have a hyperactive disorder – I know in my heart, I would have killed myself.”

The Darceuils are thrilled that Dignity House has been able to help so many people in the 11 months it has been open.

Two groups have gone through the programme so far. Members of the first have moved on to supportive or independent living; some are back in their own homes.

“Dignity House really is a blessing to people. I didn't know how much it would be a blessing to people but it certainly is because we've seen the growth, we’ve seen the change in people's behaviour and in their lives. And they tell us and their family members tell us,” Mrs Darceuil said.

With 50 years of nursing between them, she and her husband understood that Bermuda needed Dignity House.

While working at the Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute as a teenager she questioned why patients kept coming back.

“I did see a return of people all the time. People go in for acute care, their health is settled but they have no tools to maintain what they have so they'll go back into hospital.”

At Dignity House the goal is to prevent that from happening.

“Who wants to continue to go back all the time? It's very disruptive to your life,” Mrs Darceuil said.

“We have some who say at the beginning, ‘I can't do this. I don't want to be here.’ You can see the extreme anxiety in their voice and in their face. And three to four months later, they’re bossing me around telling me what to do.”

Mr Darceuil said that Dignity House was the only place in Bermuda to treat the dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental health disorders.

“Universally, especially in America, it's very limited the number of people that can actually do that so we have something really big to share.”

Veronica, 64, is grateful she was accepted into the programme.

She was married for 25 years. Her husband, who had served time in jail, had hidden his drug addiction from her. Meanwhile, she had “never really dealt with the depression” she had suffered throughout her life.

“We both had basically antisocial behaviours,” she said.

“I lived in an abandoned house for 13 years after being evicted from the Bermuda Housing Corporation programme because there was no middle pathway; there was no middle ground with counselling for me to go. I just didn't fit in a programme.

“When my husband died suddenly, I found out he had a lot of secrets. I was left coping with the secrets and didn't have the support. And then my son got killed and that's basically when my crisis happened.

“I was left on my own and then I was being evicted with nowhere to go but the homeless shelter, which I had been to four times before.”

The shelter refused to take her in because she carried “so much baggage”.

“I was in a very bad state of affairs mentally because I knew that I should have been able to get help but I didn't get help and my crisis just reached astronomical trauma.”

A friend connected her with Dignity House.

“It just so happened it was a perfect fit. It came at the last moment, just before my court-appointed eviction when I had nowhere to go.”

In three months, Veronica has benefited from the mindfulness, the devotions, the dialectical behaviour therapy and other treatments. She feels she is “fully equipped with tools to cope” with her emotions.

“If I had an apartment to go to, a family to go to, that's where I would be but because I was homeless they're actually developing a programme for me. They didn't cut the cord on me and just let me go because at this point the only other place for me to go would be again to the homeless shelter – with no job, with no skills for work.

“As intelligent as I seem, the part of me that needs to be nurtured makes me feel really inadequate. I can't fill out a job application or hand in a resume because there's so many gaps in my history. So I am so grateful to Dignity House for embracing me. I feel valued for once in my life. Instead of thinking about where I should be, they helped me to know that it's OK to be where I am.”

Erica, whose two children are under the age of ten, became the first recipient of its charitable arm.

She was addicted to marijuana at age 15 and describes Dignity House as “a blessing” for “anyone that has mental health challenges”.

“I suffered extreme childhood trauma for an extended amount of years and that's kind of how it all took off,” she said. “It disabled me from coping as a person who hasn’t endured such trauma.”

She is thrilled the programme gives her access to dialectical behaviour therapy, “an evidence-based psychotherapy that treats personality disorders and interpersonal conflicts”, and cognitive behavioural therapy, a psychological treatment for depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse and severe mental illness.

“I've been practising DBT for about six years but to actually be able to put it into practice on a daily basis with professional support and around-the-clock staff is what makes it work. I can talk to staff 24 hours a day if I need to; that support is here,” Erica said.

Her next challenge will be learning how to manage on her own.

“I need support with independent living. I can cope well in a bubble and with the 100 per cent support. What I need help with on my next phase is surviving in the world; facing the daily life challenges.

“All of this is support that they're incorporating into my programme now so that I can live my best life from here with the tools – with these distress tolerance tools, with mindfulness, radically accepting situations that occur without reacting; becoming a responsive person and not a reactive person. These are all the tools that I'm learning how to act with and not just talk about.”

She hopes that eventually she will be able to help others. Courses to become a certified nursing assistant and volunteering are part of that plan.

“Part of recovery is giving back and to incorporate that giving back into a career and a life is beyond my wildest dreams. There are no words to describe how grateful I am.”

For more information, visit www.dignityhousebm.com; prestigeawards.co.uk/

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Published February 02, 2023 at 7:49 am (Updated February 03, 2023 at 8:04 am)

I wouldn’t be alive without Dignity House, says grateful client

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