Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Future Without Discrimination for People with Schizophrenia

Photo by Sangeetha Nair 
Schizophrenia has always been a very misunderstood mental illness. Some blame the media who relentlessly publish gruesome stories of murders committed by people with this mental disorder. Other's blame the mental health system for not having enough staff and facilities to help people with schizophrenia get better treatment. But pointing fingers is not going to solve anything. 

Advocates like the Schizophrenia Society have been organizing public education and awareness campaigns for over three decades now. But we still have people who think that those with schizophrenia are violent and should be put behind bars. 

The million dollar question is, how do we teach people to be more compassionate? Values like love, acceptance and kindness are taught to us at a very young age. It molds us into the human beings we are today. So let's teach our children about mental health while they are young.

You may think that mental illness will not affect your family. Or you may think that your kids do not need to be exposed to such information. But think again. Statistics show that 1 in 5 Canadians will suffer from a mental illness. The average age of onset for schizophrenia is between 18 to 25.

Photo by Sangeetha Nair 
So when you prepare yourself for that talk about  the birds and the bees, might as well throw in a crash course on mental health. Mental illness may not affect them in their lifetime and I hope and pray that it doesn't. But it might happen to a family  member or friend at school. 

Let them know its okay to talk about it. Tell them that having a mental illness is not the end of   the world. There are many who have battled mental illness, even schizophrenia and have become successful, respectable people in society. There is hope. Teach them to love and accept a person with mental illness just like they would a person with a physical illness. This will hopefully change how the future generation views schizophrenia and mental health in general. 

Picnic in the Park - May 24
Photo by Sangeetha Nair 

The Manitoba Schizophrenia Society recently organized a picnic in the Bonnycastle Park to celebrate National Schizophrenia and Psychosis Awareness Day.

Over 80 people from all walks of life had come to join in the celebration. There were two little girls with their young fathers. There were families and friends. There was a six month old baby with her young mother and there were volunteers who came because they believe in hope.

MSS Peer Group facilitator Karen Kaplen with Jane
Jane Burpee, the public education coordinator for MSS said, " It isn't about statistics. It isn't about the DSM 5. It is about the individual journeys of courage and success which we so humbly admire.

"Having young children at the celebration gives hope that they will grow up with an understanding of mental illness, which, in turn will give us a generation that will change stigma into compassion in the future."

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