Jesse Bigelow leads peer support groups and has become an outspoken advocate for people who face stigma and discrimination because of mental illness. Jesse’s drive and passion for the work he does comes from first-hand experience.
Jesse was first diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 19. When the symptoms first started, Jesse believed that the voices were talking to him through the television and delusions caused him to approach strangers in the street and talk about religion. His family did not know what to do or where to turn. His mother, Susan, looked everywhere for help but there seemed to be no supports or resources available to help guide them. Navigating the mental health system alone was hit or miss – some services helped, and some did not.
Eventually, his family sought help from the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO). “When we first came to SSO, we were frustrated,” said Jesse. “My family and I did the best we could to find help, but accessing the mental health system can be a real challenge. Not only did SSO connect me to the right treatment, they also provided much-needed support to help my family.”
Today Jesse takes his experiences, and uses them to help families and individuals cope with mental health issues. Whether he’s just socializing with friends, giving talks about his experiences, or doing his weekly yoga class, Jesse is there to help, to educate, and make people aware about mental illness. Jesse and his family are grateful to SSO for the help they provided, and for the help they provide to other families across Ontario.
If you’re interested in having Jesse speak, please contact Michael Torres at firstname.lastname@example.org