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Students for Mental Wellness club members (from left) Brent Seal, Taylor Kagel and Joe Roback hope their videos on YouTube will help improve the public face of mental illness.

Trio with mental illnesses speak up on YouTube

May 27, 2010

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What do outdoor enthusiast Brent Seal, public speaker Taylor Kagel and chess player Joe Roback have in common besides being respected SFU students?

Each live with a diagnosed mental illness that could destroy their lives if it wasn’t treated effectively.The trio, who are co-executive members of the SFU club Students for Mental Wellness (SMW), hope their courageous decision to go public about their illness in video segments on YouTube will help improve the public face of the disease.

They offer themselves up as examples of what living with mental illness can be like if its diagnosed early, treated effectively and accepted socially.Their videos offer "a new, authentic face to mental illness—not the depressing ‘feel sorry for me’ status quo that people usually hear," says Seal, who has schizophrenia.

The lead guide for SMW’s Hiking for Mental Wellness program, Seal says in his video, "I just hope that people with mental illness aren’t seen as lazy, crazy, violent or weird. I hope they’re seen as strong and courageous and valuable members of society and loving people because that’s what they truly are. That’s the face of mental illness that I see."

Kagel, a 2009 SFU computing science grad, lives with severe depression and anxiety. But that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a successful public speaker and charitable fundraiser.

In his video, he says, "by opening up dialogue about mental illness we can remove some of the stigma. We need a positive representative, such as an MP with a serious mental illness to come forward. That would be a huge milestone."

Roback, a psychology student who has bipolar disorder,is an accomplished musician and president of the SFU chess club. He attributes his creative abilities partially to his mental illness. "There’s a fascinating link between chess, music and mental health," he says in his video.

"For me, chess is a distraction from stress in my life and music is an important creative outlet and means of recovery."

To see the three YouTube videos go to: www.youtube.com/user/SMWCanada.

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