Message From the President of the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society Board of Directors
On behalf of the Board of Directors I want to take the time to welcome you to the 24th annual Iris Gala.
This is an extraordinary time. With a global pandemic there is much uncertainty and fear. MSS has always been there to help and support people who experience these emotions as they relate to lived experience. As natural supports are impaired during this period of social distancing, when mental health is perhaps already in jeopardy, it is so important to remember to reach out, to let others know that they matter. The challenge does not lie in whether we can be supportive but rather how. Now more than ever, we are grateful for the support you are providing to our organization.
This last year has been eventful for MSS and the board. Our organization has been handed the amazing opportunity to make a significant impact on the landscape of mental health with a peer-based peer support program. What this means is that we are now able to be present in the places where people encounter the sometimes daunting and impersonal spaces of clinical mental health services. Our peer specialists can provide compassion, empathy and hope from the shared space of lived experience. We believe that this is a way to live out our mission:
“To provide quality mental health education and value-based peer support for Manitobans and their families dealing with mental health challenges.”
What this has meant for us is a period of revision and restructuring to ensure we can be in the best position to achieve this new reality in mental health services for Manitoba. To that end, we have greatly benefited from the support and guidance by Robyn Priest.
It is with mixed feelings that we say farewell to Chris Summerville this year as he retires from MSS. We are aware of how this new and exciting chapter of MSS could not be possible without his 25 years of dedicated and passionate work. We are in a great position for the important work ahead of us and we thank him for helping MSS to this point. We are grateful but will miss him greatly.
Thank you to Julia Hoeppner for her important work with MSS and her willingness to take on the role of Interim ED during this time of transition.
We also want to thank you for your support – throughout the years as well as now as you attend our 24th Gala.
I recall in my last address writing these words:
“The Manitoba Schizophrenia Society is about shining a light on the darkness of stigma and isolation. We believe it is important to continue to fight stigma with education and knowledge, to counter isolation with the warmth of a supportive and understanding community.”
These words are as true today as when I first wrote them. People with lived experience and their families deserve respect and hope, our goal remains in front of us as we embark on another busy and exciting year at MSS. Your support makes this all possible.
I would like to thank our event main sponsor, Bell MTS for supporting our evening as well as all our other sponsors whose contributions made this event possible!
Last but certainly not least, we are fortunate to have a dedicated team who work hard to plan and organize the Gala. Thank you to Fran Schellenberg and all the volunteers of the Iris Gala Planning Committee.
Once again, we appreciate you all, thank you for being here tonight and enjoy the evening!
Alexander Sawatsky, President
Message from the Chair of the Iris Gala Committee
On behalf of the 2020 Iris Gala Committee, welcome to the 24th annual Iris Gala (and the 1st ever virtual Iris Gala!) in support of the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society.
Tonight, during a time and circumstance that no one could ever have imagined, we have found a way to come together to celebrate the 40 plus years of hard work and dedication that the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society has provided to people with schizophrenia and their families in our province. We celebrate a new era of much needed peer support that will become more available in locations across Manitoba. We celebrate and pay tribute to an incredible leader in Dr. Chris Summerville, who has contributed in significant ways, to the face of mental health in our province and across Canada. And we celebrate the potential that we all have to contribute to a society that is free of stigma and prejudice associated with mental illness.
The generosity of the sponsors and donors toward this gala has been overwhelming. Thank you to all the sponsors, donors, volunteers, and to you, our guests, for your generous support. It is more than inspiring that even during a time of societal and economic challenge, our sponsors and donors have stepped up to the plate to honor their commitment to, and support of, the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society. My gratitude goes out to all of you.
Special gratitude also goes to our event sponsor, Bell Let’s Talk, whose work has significantly changed the face of mental health across Canada, provincially, and at the grassroots level. You have made the success of the past several Iris Galas possible through your generous support.
A special thank you also goes out to the 2020 Iris Gala Committee members for the incredible work they have done creating this special evening and for pulling together to transport our live event into a virtual platform. And a very, very special thank you to Katrina Tinman and Riel Dion for their outstanding efforts toward making this virtual event a reality!
Every dollar raised at the 2020 Iris Gala will be used to support two much needed programs:
The “Strengthening Families Together” program, which educates families and friends of people with schizophrenia and provides tools for managing the impact of psychosis in their lives.
Two specific “hearing voices” programs: one for people with schizophrenia that focuses on how to manage/cope with voice hearing, and one for people who want to better understand the experiences of individuals with schizophrenia through a hearing voices simulation
I wish you and your families much health and wellness during this challenging time that tests our patience, our resilience, and our fortitude. Please take good care of yourselves and each other.
Thank you again for your support.
Chair, 2020 Iris Gala Committee
Message From the CEO Emeritus of the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society
First of all, this is one of the most difficult times in this century as we adjust to the COVID-19 virus. It presents to each and everyone of us tremendous mental health challenges. Together as we practice physical distancing and compassionate presence and mindfulness, we shall overcome this. We will recover as a society!
Secondly, It is has been my delightful joy and honoured privilege to be the CEO of MSS for over 25 years, the longest serving executive of the eleven schizophrenia societies across Canada. When I began in 1995, I soon discovered the potential for MSS to evolve towards being a leader of leaders, of influencing mental health policies in Manitoba, and fostering the recovery philosophy and practice. If I might say, it is a beautiful story of how MSS has come to be recognized today as the lead peer support organization in Manitoba. I saw that potential.
Potential is having or showing the possibility and capacity to become or develop into something in the future. MSS was the first schizophrenia society to embrace the recovery movement, to have a person of lived experience to be the first president, to hold the first recovery conference, and now to be the first to allow itself to be transformed into a mental health organization committed to formalized and intentional peer support. There still exists significant potential for MSS to touch more lives with hope, help, and healing: to foster a greater understanding of recovery, resiliency, and well-being for those touched by early psychosis, schizophrenia and any other mental illness.
Mental health is key to our well-being. It has been said, “Mental health is about realizing our potential, coping with the normal stresses of life, and making a contribution to our community. It may be more helpful to think of good mental health as thriving. Good mental health isn’t about avoiding problems or trying to achieve a ‘perfect’ life. It’s about living well and feeling capable despite challenges. Mental well-being is bigger than the presence or absence of a mental illness. People who live with a mental illness can and do thrive, just as people without a mental illness may experience poor mental health.”
The mission of MSS is simple: to help people achieve the potential that exists in them and to be able to live the life they desire to live, in spite of mental illness; to help them reach their dream. Henri Nouwen, the Dutch Catholic theologian, philosopher, pastor, and writer stated, “A people without a dream dies. Without a dream there is no hope, and without hope there is no future. Without a future there is no one to care for but ourselves.” (Because of hope there is a future beyond Covid-19!) I trust that MSS will continue to rise to its potential to do whatever possible to make the dreams of those affected by mental illness and mental unwellness reach their own POTENTIAL! Now that’s what recovery is all about.
Dr. Christopher Laine Summerville, M.Div., M.Miss., D.Min., LL.D. (honoris causa); CPRRP