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Mental Health

How I Started the Lorne Fraser Educational Fund

Lorne Douglas Fraser

Reprinted from "Supported Education" issue of Visions Journal, 2003, No. 17, p. 18

I spent 20 years in a state of depression, seeing nothing good in life. Then I started to swing the other way; even today, when I get a shiver in my brain, I know it’s the mania coming.

I have been in and out of Crease Clinic at Riverview, St. Vincent’s Hospital, Vancouver General Hospital, and St. Paul’s Hospital. My first wife took my three children from me before my very eyes. At that point, I felt I would have been better off dead.

During my employment years, I was in and out of work. Part of it was due to my being put into the hospital to treat my manic-depressive or bipolar illness. This information soon got around to employers and as a result, it became difficult for me to become employed. This was due in part to their ignorance concerning mental illness. As a matter of fact, one employer told me, “We can’t have a mental patient working here.” I was fired immediately.

I was very willing to work and during my working years I changed jobs several times. I had stints at accounting, real estate sales, and teaching at Vancouver Community College. At one time, I even taught guitar. For me, each new job I had required new training. It’s always been difficult for me to get back into the workforce. My life has always been a retraining program.

In 1979, I incorporated a company called C.D.B. Investments Ltd; I just had to try and work for myself. Bouts in psychiatric wards in hospitals were taking their toll on my life. I was able to secure bookkeeping clients and thus I was able to work according to my timetable.

In 1981, I was hospitalized and sent to St. Paul’s Hospital. On the second day of my admission, the head nurse asked me if I would talk with a particular patient. She advised me that this person was not talking to the medical staff and that they needed to have some sort of dialogue with him so that they would be able to treat him. I responded to this and said that I would attempt to have his trust and friendship.

I was able to establish a dialogue with him. He said he was 55 years old, unemployed, an alcoholic, and now a mental patient and very depressed. Overnight, he escaped from the hospital and jumped from the 13th floor of his apartment and killed himself. I realized that I was not the only person facing the same conditions; I came to believe that other people may be in a worse situation.

Now I was determined to give people with mental illness money for job-skills training. From 1982 to 1992, through my company, I gave whatever money I could to people with mental illness to go to college with the idea that they would find work. (see page 9 for more about how this fund operates today.)

By participating in an individual’s education, the community will ultimately benefit. An individual with marketable job skills can contribute to society and help lessen the stigma associated with mental illness. For my part, self-sufficiency is a very conscious effort about surviving.

 
About the author
Lorne is the founder of the Lorne Fraser Educational Fund and is committed to increasing opportunities for people with a mental illness. He has lived with bipolar disorder for many years and recognizes the importance of education to personal well-being. Since 1982, the Lorne Fraser Educational Fund has helped more than 150 British Columbians pursue their educational dreams

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