Mental illness advocacy work is valuable: Victoria Leadership Awards nominee

Winning the award not as important as doing the work

Re: Awards honour region’s leaders (News, Feb. 24)

The Victoria Leadership Awards ceremony was a momentous event. I was very honoured to be a finalist in the United Way category for my work in promoting respect and understanding towards people with mental illnesses.

By raising the profile of mental health and the progressive work of the B.C. Schizophrenia Society here in Victoria, I feel that I scored a victory even though the final award went to another worthy recipient.

I envision a community where people with mental illnesses are valued and perceived as whole people first, with all of their talents and smarts that they bring to the table. From my personal observation, people with mental illnesses are the most gifted, intelligent and intuitive people that I have ever known.

Not only is that stigma about mental illness destructive to the people affected, it is destructive to our community. The stigma is a double-edged sword. People with mental illnesses are denied opportunities, but there is another equally disturbing outcome: employers, organizations and businesses never access a tremendous reservoir of skill and mental ability. As a community, we cannot afford to lose that wealth of pure talent.

We all have to work hard to eradicate that stigma that robs people of proper health care and treatment and their right to contribute and be involved in our community. Equally disturbing, it robs our community of their significant gifts. In a stigma-free society, everybody wins.

Doreen Marion Gee