The relationship between the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society Foundation (BCSS Foundation) and BCIT Marketing Association (BCITMA) Community Relations team began in November 2020. Together with the BCSS Foundation, they created a social media content campaign for BCSS Foundations’ community fundraiser—learning more about schizophrenia along the way. Needless to say, the campaign was a success! 

This year, the BCITMA Community Relations team joins us again with fresh faces from both the first- and second-year cohorts to support us for the BMO RUN4HOPE. Linda is one of the new members of the BCIT team. Here’s what she says about her journey with the BCSS Foundation:

“Schizophrenia is something I first read about in an introductory psychology textbook in high school. Surrounded by descriptions of other types of mental disorders, I read and understood as much as was necessary to do well in the upcoming midterm exam. As a teenager, I felt that schizophrenia was a muddy, distant concept. I might have read a list of symptoms, but I didn’t truly understand the extent to which a person’s life can be impacted by something like schizophrenia. After all, I’d never met anyone who has had it touch their lives. 

That changed half a year ago when I joined the BCITMA Community Relations team out of a desire to participate more actively in the communities around me. At first, helping BCSS was mostly a result of that desire. But through our weekly meetings I got to meet the wonderful BCSS Foundation members, including Guelda Redman, who serves on the BCSS Foundation Board. Guelda’s story touched me very deeply ( you can read about Guelda’s story here). 

Until I read her story, schizophrenia had occupied a nebulous space in my head. It wasn’t a concept I ever had reason to think deeply about. In hindsight, mainstream media had also seemed to have shaped my understanding of schizophrenia—by framing it negatively, often depicting schizophrenic individuals as ‘dangerous’. When I was younger, the word ‘schizophrenia’ conjured up an image of something akin to Jekyll and Hyde. But I now realise that such an idea is incorrect.

I took a step back and read more stories, did more in-depth research, pondered upon the origins of my misconception, and did my best to correct them– one by one. I learnt people with schizophrenia don’t suddenly become ‘dangerous’. People living with schizophrenia often do not get proper access to a stable system of care.

Guelda’s story brings up the moment when Kai, her son, told them that he had thrown away all his belongings “because he believed that he had no choice but to be homeless” and that “everyone could hear his thoughts.” Understanding Kai’s perceptions of reality touched me, as did reading about Guelda’s family’s struggles to help him. Most importantly, a human aspect shines through these stories—something that textbooks and mainstream media do not often do.

In the end, it’s one thing to read about the various ways schizophrenia can affect a person in a textbook, and something else entirely to experience these stories through the eyes of someone you know. It’s a subtle but meaningful difference. You can tell me that 1 in 100 Canadians are affected by schizophrenia, and I will sympathise and perhaps be surprised by the numbers (it’s more common than we think). But in the end, it is the stories that make you and me realize how closely we are all touched by schizophrenia and make those numbers come to life in meaningful ways.