Music, comedy brings psychosis to students

The B.C. Schizophrenia Society and HereToHelp BC are reaching out to teens across the province

  • Mar. 9, 2016 5:00 p.m.

Paul Brian and James Goldie Citizen

The B.C. Schizophrenia Society and HereToHelp BC are reaching out to teens across the province to educate and encourage them in dealing with mental illness.

Its ReachOut Psychosis program visited Cowichan Secondary School Friday, March 4, where speakers educated students on identifying and dealing with psychosis-related disorders such as schizophrenia.

“It’s important that we become comfortable talking about psychosis,” said tour coordinator Susan Nase.

“By identifying psychosis as a serious, but treatable medical condition of the brain this program works to help youth and their friends and teachers recognize it early and get effective help.”

ReachOut Psychosis’s in-school presentations are a blend of rock and comedy, with Vancouver band Froghead performing and speaking with students about mental health, sometimes sharing first-hand experiences.

Mike Young, one of the band’s bass players, told the gathered students about the psychosis he struggled with as a teenager.

“When I was 15 or 16 I was suffering from pretty serious depression and as a result I went through a bit of what we’ve been talking about,” said Young. “For me the biggest [symptom] was paranoia. I thought people were watching me all the time. I thought they were following me in the halls at school. It was pretty intense and was pretty hard for me to be in social situations.”

Young eventually sought professional help, but said he might have done so sooner had he or his peers known about psychosis at the time.

“Teen suicide statistics related to youth mental illness are staggering,” Nase said. “If properly diagnosed at early stages, medical treatment has the ability to not just turn young lives around, but to save lives.”

In addition to songs by Froghead, students also participated on stage in activities aimed at highlighting potential psychosis triggers and simulating what it can be like for people living with psychosis-induced hallucinations.

There was also a dance-off between a volunteer from the audience and Nase, a trained tap dancer.

“There’s a reason we use music and dance in our presentations,” said Nase, explaining that creative activities stimulate the brain in healthy ways and also encourage people to be engaged with others rather than withdraw into their own worlds.

ReachOut Psychosis has been touring the province since 2005, reaching more than 20,000 students annually. The tour’s mission is to raise awareness of psychosis, which affects around three per cent of youth.

For more information on the ReachOut Psychosis Tour visit www.reachoutpsychosis.com or call 604-682-7020.