Health and addiction forum offers message of hope

Creating an attitude of hope and support is the aim of an upcoming workshop on mental health and addiction issues.

The free forum, Journey of Hope … The Winding Road, is hosted by the Nanaimo Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Council and sponsored by the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

The advisory council’s aim is to connect service providers involved in mental health and addictions to clients and families to help share information, ideas and educate people.

Noreen Morrison, council chairwoman, said the forum is meant to open people’s eyes about mental health and addiction issues. She said there are still stigmas and a need to break them down.

“People are ashamed initially,” she said. “We’re educating people that it’s not something to be ashamed of. We have to learn how to deal compassionately with people who suffer from mental health (issues).”

This year’s event features speakers Shelagh Rogers, a veteran broadcast journalist and current host of The Next Chapter on CBC Radio; Dr. Bayla Schecter, regional medical advisor for VIHA; and author Susan Inman, who wrote After Her Brain Broke: Helping My Daughter Recover her Sanity.

Rogers opens the event with her discussion, Time to stop being “the other” and be “each other”. She said her speech will discuss how mental illness affects everyone.

“Compassion literally means to suffer with or to suffer together,” said Rogers in an e-mail. “We must empathize with the person who is dealing with mental illness – the other – and see things from their end to try to create understanding.”

Rogers believes forums like this are essential because the stigma of mental illness it deeply ingrained in society. And although its improving, there is still a long way to go.

“Anything that highlights the need for understanding and action has my wholehearted support,”  she said.

Schecter’s discusses how marijuana and tobacco affect mental health and what can be done about it. She’s worked in addiction medicine for 23 years.

Inman talks about better support for parents of people with mental illness, and discusses her family’s nine-year journey helping her daughter recover from schizoaffective disorder.

The forum also features a panel presentation entitled A Message of Hope for the Journey. Panel members include Schecter, Inman, Sandra Good, health administration for the Snuneymuxw First Nation, Rosemary Madge, an NMHA council member and Cpl. David LaBerge, manager of the Nanaimo RCMP bike patrol unit.

The forum is open to service providers or anyone who suffers from or has been treated for mental health and addiction issues, as well as their family members.

The event takes place May 5 at the Beban Park Social Centre from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. People must register for the forum by  (Thursday) April 28 by calling 250-739-5700 ext. 57569 or e-mailing nmhaac@gmail.com.