East York observes Schizophrenia Awareness Month

The Toronto community of East York has long had a particularly activist chapter of the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, and this October, which also happens to be Schizophrenia Awareness Month, the East York chapter is gearing up again.

The chapter was founded 11 years ago by Ruth Malloy, a mother of three adults living with schizophrenia. Its objective is to provide support to individuals living with schizophrenia, their families and those they come in contact with, such as landlords, employers and friends.

“It’s basically families supporting and helping other families … sharing victories along with the bad things as well,” said Patricia Jane, current chair of the East York chapter.

One out of every 100 people will develop schizophrenia in his or her life. Although there is no cure, treatments and medication can alleviate certain symptoms. It is usually detected when people are in their teens to mid-20s, and is partly genetic, partly environmental in origin.

With advances in research making it easier to detect schizophrenia at an early age, Jane is also pushing for testing in schools.

The Schizophrenia Society concentrates on three areas: support, education and advocacy. As well as offering forums and professional speakers to the public, it also fights for the rights of people living with schizophrenia .

Many people living with the disorder are not able to work and live below the poverty line, which is something else group leaders are trying hard to change.

“Illness is only part of who they are and what they can do,” said Jane.

The group meets on Tuesdays at the Toronto East General Hospital at 7 p.m. New members are always welcome, but meetings are not open to the public.