Peace of Mind march

Walk­ing through the streets in sup­port of peo­ple with schizophre­nia

The Daily Observer - - NEWS - SEAN CHASE SChase@post­

Friends, neigh­bours and fam­ily mem­bers gath­ered Sun­day in Pem­broke to walk in sup­port of those suf­fer­ing from schizophre­nia.

The an­nual Peace of Minds Walk aims to raise aware­ness and to sup­port fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing with men­tal ill­ness by ben­e­fit­ing the Schizophre­nia So­ci­ety of On­tario. Over the past 24 years, the event has raised more than $1 mil­lion for cru­cial pro­grams and ser­vices across On­tario while ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic.

A good crowd of sup­port­ers clad in green t-shirts gath­ered for the walk which be­gan in the city’s east end. This year, the walk also re­mem­bered three peo­ple con­nected to schizophre­nia who have passed away re­cently in­clud­ing area res­i­dent Michel Soulier and Ellen Pronovost, a for­mer chair­woman of the lo­cal chap­ter who founded the lo­cal event 24 years ago. Her three daugh­ters had been di­ag­nosed with schizophre­nia.

The walk also paused to hon­our the mem­ory of Cleve Ged­des, a Pem­broke man who was in po­lice cus­tody when he hanged him­self in his cell at the Ottawa-Car­leton De­ten­tion Cen­tre. He was suf­fer­ing from schizophre­nia and had been off his med­i­ca­tion for four months.

Schizophre­nia re­mains a mis­un­der­stood dis­ease sur­rounded by mis­con­cep­tions. Ac­cord­ing to the so­ci­ety, with early di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment there is a chance for a good qual­ity of life for those af­fected by the ill­ness.

“Ev­ery­one thinks peo­ple with schizophre­nia can’t hold down jobs or do any­thing but they can be an in­te­gral part of so­ci­ety if given the chance and with the right pro­grams,” said Chris­tine McIl­wrath, who co-or­di­nated the walk for the Ren­frew County chap­ter of the Schizophre­nia So­ci­ety of On­tario.

One in 100 peo­ple will de­velop schizophre­nia in their life­time. It of­ten strikes young peo­ple in their teens or early 20s. Re­cent sta­tis­tics shows it af­fects 130,000 peo­ple in this prov­ince alone. Schizophre­nia is twice as preva­lent as Alzheimer’s and six times as preva­lent as in­sulin-de­pen­dant di­a­betes. The so­ci­ety’s goal is to con­tinue sup­port­ing fam­i­lies af­fected by the dis­ease, raise pub­lic aware­ness and fund re­search.

The event changed its name from Walk of Hope to Peace of Minds to paint a more pos­i­tive pic­ture while en­sur­ing those with schizophre­nia or who suf­fer from men­tal ill­ness don’t re­main in the shad­ows. McIl­wrath added this is a walk where those folks can come for­ward and feel in­cluded in so­ci­ety.

“This is their day,” she said. “They can be them­selves.”


A lone bag piper leads a march of 30 sup­port­ers of the Schizophre­nia So­ci­ety of On­tario Ren­frew County branch as they head to­wards Pem­broke Street East Sun­day. Or­ga­niz­ers hoped the walk would raise aware­ness sur­round­ing men­tal ill­ness and those who suf­fer from it.

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