Island Health presented awards to two young Vancouver Islanders for their work above and beyond in supporting people living with mental health and substance abuse issues.
Cameron Webster, 26, and Marijke McDonald, 16, received the Mental Health and Substance Use Community Service Awards on Tuesday (May 3) in front of a small crowd at Royal Jubilee Hospital.
Webster, who was diagnosed with psychosis in 2014 and schizoaffective disorder in 2015, was the subject of the 2019 documentary Follow My Brain. The film chronicles his focus on recovery from mental illness characterized by mood disorders and symptoms of schizophrenia, as opposed to the despair of a mental illness prognosis.
“I wanted to show that recovery is not only possible but expected. You can accept the diagnosis, but not the prognosis,” Webster said. He’s currently in full recovery from his 2014 diagnosis and is completing studies in Mental Health and Addiction at Camosun College.
McDonald, a student at St. Margaret’s School, founded the Home is Where the Heart Is foundation with several peers to provide exposure to the needs of Victoria’s unhoused community. Since its creation in 2020, the foundation gathered donations for over 50 care packages. Today, McDonald and her board of directors are working towards a community project where residents of Victoria, unhoused and otherwise, will be able to share their experiences for the sake of greater connection and understanding of their lived experiences.
“The feeling of just not being able to help was really frustrating for me,” she said. “The unhoused community in Victoria is a vital part of our community, and I really wanted to get to know that side of Vancouver Island.”
Keva Glynn, executive director of mental health and substance use for Island Health, said the work of both award recipients “helps us articulate what’s going on in terms of stigma and helps us make changes.
“So thank you very much for being the champions in our community and for being a guiding light for us as we plan our services,” Glynn said.
The nominees and recipients were chosen by the South Island Advisory Committee as community members who make a difference in the lives of people with mental health and substance use challenges.
“Each year as we review dozens of award recommendations, our committee takes time to reflect on the incredible people who share our community,” said chair Sharlene Law. “We are always in awe of the kindness and compassion that is shown to those who struggle with mental health and substance use issues. Congratulations and thank you to this year’s well-deserved winners.”
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