After Elgin Barrett graduated from college, his parents noticed that something wasn’t right. The symptoms of psychosis, hearing voices and hallucinations, started to become noticeable. He was initially diagnosed with schizophrenia and went on medication.
“When I wasn’t on my medication the voices and hallucinations came back but while I was taking them I was stable and able to live a normal life” Elgin says. “I was in a good place, I was engaged to be married, and then personal issues caused me to have a psychotic episode.”
Elgin ended up forcing his way in to the cockpit of an airplane, was arrested and taken to jail. He was admitted to CAMH where he was diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder and has been successfully treated for that illness.
Today Elgin is married to his supportive spouse, Pamela, and has a twelve year old daughter. He and his wife do speaking engagements through the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario’s (SSO) speaker’s bureau to groups like boarder security, members of the police service and colleges, focusing specifically on justice and mental health because of his experiences.
“Other members of my family live with mental illness. My wife’s brother lives with schizophrenia, my brother also lives with bipolar mood disorder and my mother lost her life due to her mental illness,” Elgin says. “It is important to share my story with people because it puts a face to mental illness and educates people.”
Pamela also finds enjoyment in sharing her story through speaking engagements. “We’re not experts, but we speak from experience. I’ve had people approach me after our talks who tell me what they’re going through and that they have nowhere to turn,” she says. “I believe it’s our mission to tell the stories of the people we’ve lost, like Elgin’s mother, and let them know they’re not forgotten.”
Elgin feels very fortunate to have a strong and loving family support system and both he and Pamela are committed to helping others living with mental illness.