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Interview with Arlene Porritt

Interview with Arlene Porritt, conducted by Karen Clements in 2019.

Porrit speaks about having ill-defined problems, but eventually finding herself debilitated by depression and anxiety. As soon as she reached out and got help, she also started to advocate against the stigma surrounding mental illness. Educated herself about mental illness in order to educate her family, friends, and even strangers. Volunteered with the Mood Disorders Association and Seneca House. She graduated from the Red River Community College Mental Health Support Worker Program. She has a paid job as peer support rehabilitation worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association, Winnipeg. She speaks about the importance of community-based organizations, and of lobbying the government, and activism is more about demanding system change for those who are suffering and raising public awareness. Her recovery and her activism/advocacy are closely linked as she uses the skills she teaches others in her own self-care.

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Interview with Margaret Elliott

Interview with Margaret Elliott, conducted by Dana Naismith in 2017 (50mm12ss).

Elliot speaks about her work in advocacy, and that she never intended to become an advocate. Has a family member diagnosed with schizophrenia, finds a lack of support for families and caregivers. Her family member sees a general practitioner for supervision of medication, but feels her knowledge and experience is not respected by professional healthcare workers. Whereas with other illnesses the importance of family in the recovery journey is recognized (e.g., cancer), there is still stigma around schizophrenia. Focus of her activism is trying to increase supports for families. Elliott speaks to her work to bring about system change through sitting on committees, such as the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority advisor committee, and lobbying MLA’s, and her is frustration with the lack of increased support. She describes her work through the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society (MSS) including leading their family support group, and her work on a family engagement survey. Elliot finds listening to so many family stories through the support group can be traumatizing and that vicarious trauma is starting to affect her health. Elliott reflects on her frustration with the lack of progress on system change, and that her advocacy work is taking time away from helping her family member on their journey.

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Interview with Roland Vandal

Oral History Interview: Kristen Hardy interviewing Roland Vandal in 2017. Adam Shyka (friend of Vandal) is present at the interview.

Vandal’s activism arose out his own experiences of addiction and mental health problems. Experienced childhood trauma, which contributed to problems in his teenage and early adulthood years with addictions (alcohol and cocaine). He experienced a great deal of pain as a result of his life style leading to hitting bottom with a serious suicide attempt, and then detox at Health Sciences Centre, addictions treatment through Addictions Foundation of Manitoba and Tamarack House, and treatment for mental illness. Speaks about his recovery, and his sense of recovery as: sense of self and recovery of spiritual connection. For him, his recovery is tied to his path to help others. He is active helping those with mental illness and addictions in a number of ways: coaching boxing for youth, working in prisons, running a level five foster home for four boys, speaking publicly about his story to schools (youth) and professionals, and helping at Red Road Lodge. He has completed various types of training in order to carry out his advocacy and service work. His goal is to help people improve their lives; he just has to show up and the rest will follow. He is a boxing coach for a number of young people who have achieved boxing acclaim. He has won numerous awards for his community service work. Three documentaries have been completed about his life, and his life story is being turned into a book.

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Interview with Katrina Tinman

Oral History Interview with Katrina Tinman, conducted by Karen Clements in 2017 (47mm21ss).

Her first experience of mental illness as a child of someone with mental illness and unconscious stigma about mental illness The speaker later developed mental health problems of her own. Through volunteering at the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society (MSS), she became more and more involved in activism and advocacy. She’s held part time paid administrative and events co-ordinator positions for MSS and the Schizophrenia Society of Canada. She finds the various provinces across Canada have differing ideas about recovery (recovery-oriented in Manitoba and more medically oriented in other some other provinces). Mental health activism overlaps with other types of activism, e.g., disability rights. Mental illness can lead to poverty and reliance on social assistance. One of the problems with mental health systems is getting access to physicians. Another problem is how the police enforce the Mental Health Act. Police need training in helping people in a mental health crisis; having an advocate working with the police would help.

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Interview with Eric Fraser

Oral history Interview with Eric Fraser conducted by Debra Dusome in 2017 (55mm18ss).

Topics include diagnosis of schizophrenia and public speaking about schizophrenia and recovery, based on his own experiences. He does his advocacy through taking whatever opportunities are presented to him. Speaks to many health care groups, client groups, and the media, and participates in public awareness and fundraising activities like the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society Annual Journey of Hope Walk. Work as a peer support worker within psychiatric settings. Medicines is crucial to his recovery, his ability to work full time, do advocacy work in the community, and be a husband and father. Many routes to recovery (medicine alone is not enough).

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Interview with Joshua McNeil

Oral History Interview conducted by Karen Clements in 2017 (1hh10mm41ss).

Joshua McNeil developed extensive activism skills through environmental, political, and other types of activism. These skills included use of social media, the internet, as well as formal, national politics; his interests always leaned toward social justice. Through working with individuals with complex disabilities and his own experience of mental illness, the speaker started to focus his activism on mental health issues (public awareness and improvement of services). He’s worked doing social media for the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society. He finds that mental illness is being talked about more publicly (e.g., social media platforms, Bell Let’s Talk) and there is a push for better understanding, less stigma, and better services. However, he feels that schizophrenia is still stigmatized. The speaker has two main action goals for his mental health activism: he would like to produce a virtual reality video to educate the public about the experience of living with psychosis—not focusing on scary parts, but on the strengths and positives of daily life with schizophrenia. He is interested in taking an entrepreneurial or business-oriented approach to mental health activism. He would also like to organize a networking conference to bring together other mental health activists in the province.

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Interview with Eleanor Snitka

Transcript of an oral History Interview with Eleanor Snitka.

Eleanor Snitka reflects on seeing students struggling with mental health problems through her work as a teacher. After retirement, she took a job as an outreach worker for Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba (MDAM). She has worked in peer support for over 17 years. MDAM, Manitoba Schizophrenia Society, and Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba have outreach workers in rural communities offering a wide variety of peer support services. Snitka’s goals are to raise awareness, end stigma, offer support to those in need, prevent suicides, and to speak out for system change. She runs peer support groups, supports individuals in accessing services and whatever else is needed, and participates in fund raising for mental health. She is well known in her rural community, so she tends to get requests for help during her daily activities and off hours.

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Interview with Judy Dunn

Oral History interview with Judy Dunn, conducted by Stan Rossowski in 2017 (52mm40ss).

Became involved in mental health activism after the death of a family member by suicide. Main activist goals are raising public awareness, decreasing stigma about suicide, and raising funds to support community initiatives for mental health. Runs in annual suicide awareness walks to fundraise for raise funds for community organizations for activities such as: annual conferences, suicide awareness in high schools, suicide initiatives, ‘safe talk’ for teachers and students, mindfulness training, mindfulness and stress reduction programs, weekly support groups, mental health resources, placing SAD lights into the local library, as well as ‘feelings awareness’ programs for elementary school children. Works with Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba; nevertheless, most of her work is as a volunteer. What she does for which organization (paid or volunteer) just depends on which “way she turns her hat.” She did not ever intend to work in the public, but felt life gave her a platform and she feels compelled to use it.

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Interview with Stan Rossowski

Oral History Interview with Stan Rossowski, conducted by Karen Clements in 2017 (1hh04mm58ss).
The interview includes discussion of: Rossowski's motivation in being a mental health activist, personal and family connection to this issue, and his work in the community, including his peer support work with various organizations.

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Interview with Mitch Bourbonniere

Oral History Interview with Mitch Bourbonniere, conducted by Karen Clements in 2017.

Discusses work as a contract social worker assisting the most vulnerable of our community—people with mental illness, addictions, homelessness, gang involved, and/or sexual exploitation. Exerience with mental health system from a number of perspectives: treated for ADHD as a child; father of a son with schizophrenia; youth mental health worker; social worker; collaborator with and supporter of grassroots community organizations. Works to cultivate a team of people to help give the marginalized a voice and access to services. He feels frustrated by barriers to family involvement in the circle of care, and the lack of services for mental illness in general.

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