Provincial psychosis presentation reaches out to northern youth
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 18:03
Jill Earl photos
One student learns how several small stressors can provoke a psychotic episode, symbolized by balls piling up in a bucket.
By Jill Earl
DAWSON CREEK- Crazy, lunatic, sicko, insane, and mad are just some of the words people use to describe psychosis and mental illness, but the B.C. Schizophrenia Society and Here ToHelp have sponsored a presentation that aims to help students view mental illness is a more empathetic way.
ReachOut Psychosis, the presentation, took the trip north to visit schools in Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Tumbler Ridge and Prince George last week.
Presenters reviewed types of psychosis, which include: hallucinations, paranoia, irritability, behaviour changes, and delusions. They also taught students about the early signs of psychosis like trouble concentrating, reduced motivation, depressed mood, problems sleeping, anxiety, withdrawal from friends and family, suspiciousness, difficulties completing everyday tasks, and mood swings.
“It’s like any other medical condition…it’s a medical condition, there’s treatment, people can live totally awesome happy lives, so there’s no reason to think less of any person going through it or be ashamed of yourself if you are. It’s just something that some of us have to deal with,” said Barbara Adler, ReachOut Psychosis’ program coordinator.
Information was broken up with songs performed by Proud Animal, whose members also disseminated the information. Comedy and audience participation was a big factor in the presentation, keyboardist Mike Young believes the informal and fun format helps youth retain the information.
“Student[s] learn better when they’re faced with something… as opposed to just material out of a textbook or a sheet of paper. We do the demonstrations with them so they can see their peers put in the position [of someone] who potentially could be going through some symptoms. I think that makes it a little more real for them; it makes it a deeper connection than just words on paper,” Young said, who has been with ReachOut Psychosis since it started in 2005.
Demonstrations, using little balls, portrayed how genetic vulnerability (family history of psychosis) along with environmental stressors like a traumatic experience and little stressors like homework can build up until that person has a psychotic episode. They also demonstrated how hard it is for someone experiencing a psychotic episode to function with constant audio, visual and tactile distraction.
During the presentations, Young also talks to the students about his experience being clinically depressed and his road to recovery, which included medication, therapy, and participating in sports. He said that treatment comes in many different forms, and will depend on the person and what they’re suffering from.
“There are just so many different ways it could happen, so many ways that it can be treated, it’s so individual,” said Young.
He said the goal of the presentation is just to educate youth as early as possible. According to the B.C. Schizophrenia Society, people between the ages of 16-25 are at a higher risk of experiencing mental illness. They want youth to be aware of how common it is, six times more likely than getting Type One Diabetes, and know where to seek help if they expect themselves or a friend are experiencing symptoms of psychosis.
“I think that a lot of the message that we’re trying to portray is we’re trying to get rid a lot of the stigma surrounding mental illness and try to get people talking about it, so that younger kids can start realizing that mental illness happens to so many people, and if they start talking about it, the easier it’s going to be as we go,” said Young.
They wanted to dispel common misconceptions about psychosis; psychosis is treatable. People suffering from mental illness are not often violent. They also wanted the students to become more comfortable talking about psychosis, and have more empathy for those suffering and not use derogatory words like insane or crazy.
“I think that part of the thing is that people don’t have the vocabulary to talk about this, or they don’t have comfort talking about these kinds of issues. It’s [crazy] just the safest fastest thing that you can say and I think that also sometimes they’re showing off for their friends, if they know it’s going to get a response,” said Adler.
ReachOut Psychosis tours seven to eight weeks of the year; they usually spend one week of every month throughout the school year in a different region of the province. This isn’t the first time they have visited the Peace Region. Adler said that the performance changes regularly with different bands, jokes, and demonstrations. She said next year they are thinking about incorporating a rap artist and the new program coordinator’s tap dancing skills.
“If they get help sooner then they’ll have a way better outcome, it could change their entire lives,” said Adler on the importance of education and the presentation.