News Local

Walking for Peace of Mind

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

Sean Chase/Daily Observer
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.

Sean Chase/Daily Observer 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.

 

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 support families and individuals living with mental illness while 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 and fighting stigma.

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 remember 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, 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 which means 30,000 Canadians. It often strikes young people in their teens or early 20's. However, 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.”

SChase@postmedia.com