Breaking down the stigma of mental illness was the message as the third annual Mad Hatters Parade and Tea Party was held in Memorial Peace Park on Saturday.
Kids got their faces painted, and they and their parents decorated hats to take part in the event, which happened alongside the Haney Farmers Market.
One of the speakers was Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith, who spoke about his brother’s battles with schizophrenia, and how it impacted his family.
His brother has suffered from mental illness for more than 30 years, and is only in a safe facility because his mother and father have been tireless advocates, he said.
“If you don’t have an advocate for you, as someone with mental illness, you can fall between the cracks, and that’s what we’re seeing a lot of throughout our communities.”
Increasing support for mental illness is one of the reasons D’Eith ran for office, and he is happy to see youth wellness services in Maple Ridge, which will soon become The Foundry, he said.
“That is a wonderful service for our youth in our community, and that’s going to really help,” said D’Eith.
He talked about his own family’s experience when his brother’s mental health started to decline.
“We had nowhere to turn as a family. We had no services, we had nothing.”
He said the number of people who turned up for the event Saturday shows the stigma surrounding people who suffer from mental health is starting to diminish.
“We have to treat mental health as another issue that is a health issue, and we have to encourage people to get the help, and not stigmatize it.”
Organizer Catherine Larnon-Trout, founder of the Mad Hatters Foundation, believes the party will keep on growing.
The event supported the B.C. Schizophrenia Society.