Imagine you are a high school student. Your goals are set and your future is planned. Then, from nowhere and for no reason, you begin to hear voices inside your head. There is no one in the room. The television and radio are turned off. Over time, the voices grow louder. You start thinking someone is watching you and following you. These experiences occur more often. You see your doctor and are told "You have schizophrenia". What can be done? Antipsychotic drugs can control the voices and hallucinations. Drugs are also needed to control the side effects of antipsychotic drugs. When you receive the drugs, you feel sleepy. You can't concentrate. You sleep and eat more. It's a repeated cycle of feeling better and feeling tired. You can't keep up in school so you drop out.
This is what happens in Canada everyday. Someone is diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder. Whatever dreams they had are soon diminished. Their life is reduced to visits to their medical doctor, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, social worker, and welfare worker. Their self worth is reduced because they can't work or attend school. Friends, family, and others may avoid them and they become isolated. Why? People don't have information on mental illness or are misinformed.
An important link to recovery for people with a mental illness is knowledge. It is not the person with a mental illness who needs the knowledge but those people who can help him to recovery. Many people with a mental illness have education goals but have very low literacy skills. They need literacy workers. Literacy workers need information on tutoring learners with a mental illness. Two excellent resources are Just Ask! A handbook for instructors of students being treated for mental disorders by Howard Davidson and Am I Welcome Here by Julia Rogers. Research is being done on supported education programs in many colleges and universities. The Centre for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University has a website for adult educators giving them information, tips, articles, etc. The website is at: http://www.bu.educ/sarpsych
The Canadian Mental Health Association has branches across Canada. The branches provide services for people with a mental illness. Staff can also answer questions and offer support. The national office has a website (http://www.cmha.ca) which provides links to other branches and mental health sites. If you are a literacy worker and need assistance, the Canadian Mental Health Association in Melfort, Saskatchewan has a resource library. Materials are available on loan by request. If you are looking for information on the Internet, there is no site linking literacy and mental illness or adult education and psychiatric disabilities. With this project, we hope to see one soon.
* Wendy Lindblad is a mental health worker for the Canadian Mental Health Association in Melfort Saskatchewan. She was a literacy coordinator with Literacy Partners of Manitoba. Wendy is completing her last course in the Certificate in Adult and Continuing Education Program offered by four western universities. To contact Wendy: CMHA Melfort, Box 2390, Melfort, SK S0E 1A0, Tel. 306 752 2284, Fax 306 752 4302,
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