With More Than 500,000 Ontarians Impacted by Schizophrenia, New Initiative
Makes Urgent Call For Support and an End to Discrimination

- Peace of Minds Campaign Reveals the Widespread Impact of Disease on Society -

TORONTO, June 23 /CNW/ - More than half a million people in Ontario are either living with schizophrenia or are directly impacted by someone close to them who is suffering from the disease. Today, The Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO) is launching Peace of Minds, its most forceful campaign ever to raise awareness about schizophrenia and to generate support for vital programs to help those impacted by this crushing mental disease. "After struggling for decades to end the stigma and misinformation about this disease, we decided it was time to reveal the dramatic impact of schizophrenia on our entire community," says Mary Alberti, CEO of the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario."

A multi-year initiative, Peace of Minds comprises four key program areas and launches today with a scaled-up support initiative that includes a toll-free help line and online Ask the Expert feature. For many, these services can be the first stop upon learning that they, or someone close to them has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. For the 1 in 100 Ontarians who have or will develop schizophrenia and the family, friends, co-workers, fellow students, and everyone else in the individual's life, this resource can literally be a lifeline. A pilot version has already been accessed by more than 3,000 Ontarians, many who live in rural areas and have no other place to turn for support and guidance.

"When a diagnosis of schizophrenia is first made, it sets off a search for information and help that can be a frustrating and friendless process," says Alberti. "Our Ask the Experts service provides what is often the first welcoming voice people hear. We passionately believe that absolutely no one should have to face this disease alone."

Through peer education, social media, corporate engagement and public outreach, the Peace of Minds campaign will use real stories about real people to open up a world most don't even know exists. It also emphasizes schizophrenia does not play out in a vacuum. It is a disease that impacts communities, and demands a community response.

"The Peace of Minds campaign is very proactive in reaching out to explain that people living with schizophrenia, and the people in their lives, are part of our community," says Alberti. "Support is essential in helping us deliver the kinds of programs that provide urgent access to health professionals, education and workplace programs and youth engagement - the demographic where schizophrenia most often strikes".

This new campaign takes innovative approaches to educate young people and encourage them to fight stigma around the disease and seek help early. Peace of Minds creates and raises funds for scholarships for people living with schizophrenia to fulfill their right to an education. Through social enterprise initiatives, in partnership with corporations, life changing employment opportunities will be developed, supporting the notion that there is a place for those with mental illness in the workforce.

Schizophrenia is a treatable brain disease that makes it very difficult for a person to distinguish what is real from what is not. The disease most often strikes people in their teens and early twenties, though it can also occur later in life. While treatable, there is currently no cure.

For more information about the Peace of Minds campaign, visit peaceofminds.org.

About the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario

The Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO) was founded as a not-for-profit organization in 1979. SSO works to improve the quality of life for those affected by schizophrenia through education, support programs, public policy and research. Further information is available at www.schizophrenia.on.ca

SOURCE SCHIZOPHRENIA SOCIETY OF ONTARIO

For further information: For further information: Chantal Richard or Steven Theobald, Idea Workshop, 416-504-3977 ext. 23, 21, Chantal@ideaworkshop.ca, Steven@ideaworkshop.ca

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SCHIZOPHRENIA SOCIETY OF ONTARIO

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