Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario


Society Making A Difference


Judy Haskell had her dream realized with the opening of the Chatham chapter of the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario.

Haskell was touched by schizophrenia twice in her life - first her husband was diagnosed and later on, so was her son, Scott.

"When I first joined the society, it was some of my darkest hours," she said, adding she lost her husband to the disease.

Haskell was among several family members and supporters of people living with schizophrenia that attended the society's open house recently.

The society, which was formerly operating out of chairwoman Ida Vsetula's home, recently moved into 235 St. Clair St. The building is shared with the Chatham-Kent Consumer and Family Network.

Regional co-ordinator Tom Glazier said between 25 and 30 families use the new facility on an ongoing basis.

"In the short time we've been here, we've been able to make a difference for some people," said Glazier.

It is a place that has brought Haskell and her now 40-year-old son solace and support.

"When we do have individual successes, we share them because they are so important to all of us," she said.

Every Friday, Scott drops by the society office for lunch and spends time with his friends.

"The people here have also been there in their own shape or form," she said. "There is still a lot of stigma about mental illness."

Haskell said there were not many services for people living with schizophrenia in the area when her husband was first diagnosed. She is pleased that her son has a greater support system available which allows him to lead an independent life.

Seventeen years ago, Haskell approached Mayor Randy Hope, who was at the time a member of the provincial parliament, asking for a schizophrenia support centre in Chatham-Kent.

Hope, who also attended the open house, said the society now "has a home here in Chatham-Kent."

"This is not one person's problem. This is a community's problem," he said.

Chatham-Kent Police Const. Brent Milne, who is a member of the Chatham-Kent Police Service HELP Team (Police-Mental Health Liaison Training Team), said the relationship between the local schizophrenia society and police has helped to break barriers and destigmatize those living with the disease.

"As police officers, we want people to see that we are here to help," he said, noting that the HELP Team drops by the society's office at least three times a week.

Deborah Deacon, program director for the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, said the new office gives the local chapter community presence.

"It's extremely important in every community that we raise the profile of mental illness," she said. "It is an illness and it is treatable."

Article ID# 931828

Reproduced from

More Mental Health articles.