Origins of the ADAO
The Anxiety Disorders Association of Ontario was incorporated as a non-profit organization and a charity in 1997. Founded by Cheryl Driskell, the organization originally began as the Agoraphobia and Peer Volunteer Association (APVA), and was created with the purpose of assisting those who were housebound with Agoraphobia. At the time, Cheryl had lived with panic attacks for 27 years and, having developed severe Agoraphobia herself, she discovered that there was little community support or understanding that was available with respect to her condition at the time. Cheryl became increasingly frustrated and angry by the discrimination she faced, as well as the loneliness and isolation that increased her sense of hopelessness and powerlessness. After a recovery, Cheryl transformed these negative seeds to positive action: she founded the APVA to let individuals affected by anxiety disorders know that they were not alone and that they were accepted just as they are. The APVA also aimed to educate the community about anxiety disorders, in order to dispel stigma, disbelief, ignorance and discrimination.
Development of the ADAO
In its early stages, the APVA was focused on developing its volunteer companion program for persons with agoraphobia and panic. However, as the APVA became known in the community, it received increasingly more calls and requests for support for a variety of anxiety conditions. As such, in 1999, the directors of the APVA decided to broaden the organization’s mandate, and continued the organization under the name Anxiety Disorders Association of Ontario (ADAO). The ADAO began to branch out into other areas of interest – developing various anxiety and panic management workshops, raising awareness of anxiety conditions through promotional materials, and constructing a quarterly newsletter for members. The ADAO was also involved in promoting services and programs for people with anxiety conditions within the city; one of these programs eventually developed into the ADAO’s current 14-week Anxiety Management Program.
The ADAO Today
While the ADAO has undergone many changes since 1997, it still fundamentally remains a community-based organization focused on the specific needs of people with anxiety, from the perspective of those people themselves. The ADAO recognizes a wide range of approaches to anxiety conditions, and provides information and support to individuals with anxiety conditions – regardless of their existing treatment and management options – and to their loved ones. Please note that the ADAO does not provide therapeutic services to individuals.
Currently, the ADAO offers the following services to the public:
- Toll-free phone line for information, peer support and referrals
- Mindfulness Program
- Information on anxiety conditions on our website [online Anxiety Resource Centre under construction]
- 14-week Anxiety Management Program for adults
- Young Adult Anxiety Management Program (17 to 24 years)
- Youth Program (12 to 16 years) [under development]
- Facilitator Conference (train-the-trainer program)
- Educational presentations and seminars for the public, health services sector, schools, non-profit organizations, community centres, businesses and government departments
The ADAO is a registered charity, and relies on the generosity of its supporters, partners and volunteers. It does not receive any local, provincial or federal funding.