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The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. Photo by P199 (Wikimedia Commons).

A call to action: #SeeHearSpeak

By Vanessa Rotondo on August 4, 2016

Vanessa Rotondo is an Ottawa-based freelance writer, spoken word artist and youth engagement coordinator/arts educator. You can follow her on Twitter.

Students from the Algonquin College Public Relations Program (ACPR) are celebrating a successful campaign that hosted a series of fundraising events to raise awareness around schizophrenia, a cause that often goes overlooked.

The #SeeHearSpeak campaign was originally inspired by an ACPR student, a young man who spoke openly of challenges living with schizophrenia, and the success he experienced through treatment with the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre (RO). As a way to give back, students from the graduating class of 2017 set out to fundraise $10,000 for the RO’s Schizophrenia Program. They reached out to the Algonquin College community and broader Ottawa community to participate in ACPR’s annual effort to fundraise for charities in the region.

Not only did they reach their goal—they straight up doubled it, donating nearly $20,000 to the program!

Samuel Giberson, a representative of #SeeHearSpeak, spoke to how the funds can be used to purchase assistive technologies, such as cell phones for people entering the recovery stage, in order to encourage communication and connection to support systems. More of the funds will go toward a digital whiteboard for classroom teaching and training sessions.

Giberson, an ACPR student, not only spoke to how happy he was with the campaign’s outcome but about how many people came out to show support.

“This was a school project that became so much more,” he said, underlining significance in how the campaign raised awareness for what schizophrenia really is and how the number of people living with schizophrenia is in fact much higher than documented.

“400,000 Canadians live with schizophrenia and 1 in 5 Canadians suffer from mental illness,” said Giberson, capturing a concerning statistic and consideration for increasing understanding of the illness.

“People shouldn’t be afraid or scared to get the assistance they need,” he added, acknowledging the importance of challenging misconceptions and stigma associated with schizophrenia.

Giberson emphasized the value of support systems for those managing their illness. “We recognize the people that help those living with schizophrenia. Doctors and family members put a lot of work into helping.”

“The future is bright,” he says, “but we still have a lot of work ahead”.

Visit their website to learn more about #SeeHearSpeak and read the F.A.Q page to learn more schizophrenia. You can also follow #SeeHearSpeak on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to learn more about events, and to view campaign videos.