UFV social work students raise awareness of mental illness

Ten UFV students, as part of an upper-level social work course focused on community development, have been working since May to put together an event to raise awareness of mental illness in the Fraser Valley.

“The process of putting this together has been amazing — really collaborative and rewarding,” says Jackie Rillera, one of the students involved in the project planning. “The team had a wide mix of talents, skills, and personalities. Our strengths were in different places, and we made that work to our advantage.”

Finally, their hard work has paid off; their event, Mental Illness: A Personal Perspective takes place this week.

“We hope to make a difference in the lives of UFV students by helping bring mental illness into the public eye,” Rillera explains. “This event is part of the BC Schizophrenia Society Partnership Education program, and we hope that it’s a contribution that will make a difference, however small.”

The BC Schizophrenia Society Partnership Education program depends on personal storytelling to communicate the effects of mental illness to an audience. The panels of every event in this program, including Mental Illness: A Personal Perspective, include a person with a psychiatric diagnosis, a family member, and a mental health professional.

It’s a combination, Rillera says, that really helps to carry the message across.

“The stories we hear are really powerful,” she explains. “We have seven presenters at our event, and each of them faces mental illness every day in one way or another.”

Lunch is offered before the event by donation, and the student organizers hope to raise enough money to give each presenter a small honorarium, as well as to seek funding opportunities for the presentation group to continue their work. Either way, attendees are welcome to sandwiches, veggies, chips, and water.

At the end of the day, the ultimately hope to raise awareness of mental illness, both at UFV and in the community. The team hopes to see an audience of about 100, comprised of students, faculty members, and attendees from the community.

“I think it’s a really interesting event for anyone to attend,” Rillera explains. “Mental illness affects the entire community— from students to faculty to volunteers. I think it’s important to spread awareness.”

Mental Illness: A Personal Perspective takes place this Wednesday, July 18, in the UFV auditorium (B101) on the Abbotsford campus. Lunch will be served from 12:30–1 pm, and the presentation will run from 1 pm­–2:30 pm. All are welcome to attend.

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