Students get psychosis lesson

Presentation at SIMS helps normalize mental health challenges

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Salt Spring middle school students had the chance to learn about psychosis and how to help themselves or others in dealing with it at a musical presentation by ReachOut Psychosis on Monday morning.

“Psychosis is a medical condition that affects the brain. It happens when a person can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what isn’t real,” explained Sydney Thorne, the MC of the event. “It can be helpful in a diagnosis of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, certain types of depression. We talk about psychosis as an umbrella term so we can touch on a bunch of those issues.”

The presentation incorporated music, audience participation and sketches as a way to reach the kids and bring their message to a younger audience. Musician Sarah Jickling and Her Good Bad Luck band played pop-music influenced songs that discussed the experience of living with psychosis. Jickling has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and incorporates her experiences into her music. The group also invited students on stage to demonstrate how the combination of environmental stressors and genetic vulnerability (family history of mental illness, for example) can lead to psychosis.

Thorne explained that they bring the presentation to youth because psychosis typically first appears at around 16 years old.

“We come to youth for this because it shows up in youth,” she said. “A lot of schools are dealing with students who have psychosis who they think are just acting out or are shy. A lot of these symptoms can fly under the radar, so it’s really good for youth to know the signs and symptoms so they can help each other.”

Even if students themselves do not experience psychosis, the prevalence of psychosis in the general population means that it is likely they will meet someone who is dealing with it sometime in their lifetime. According to ReachOut’s website, psychosis affects three per cent of the population and is six times more common than Type 1 diabetes.

Tiffany Wightman, the counsellor at the middle school who helped coordinate the event, explained that “a lot of kids will say that they have an older sibling in their 20s who has some sort of diagnosis or mental health condition . . . This is the start of their support systems. It’s super important to have these conversations.”

For more on this story, see the Feb. 27, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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