Deanna Wium

Rocking for change and better awareness

As a son battles schizophrenia, his mom and brother organize a benefit concert in Chilliwack.

Two years ago, when he was 17 years old, Edward Gallant inexplicably began hearing a clamor of disembodied voices. Some were positive, and cheered him on as he overcame a struggle. But in those early months, most were negative, and terrorized Edward as they fought to control him.

Edward saw a psychiatrist, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

“Things literally appeared that didn’t make any sense, which really confused you and you would become really scared,” he said.

There were about six distinct voices, mostly of people from Edward’s past, such as a kind deceased uncle, or a cruel childhood schoolteacher. Many of the negative voices harassed Edward to commit self-harm, and it became difficult to distinguish them from real-world sounds and demands.

“It definitely puts you in a deep depressive state for a while,” he said.

In addition to the voices, Edward had strange hallucinations, such as looking up into the rearview mirror of his car and seeing a woman dressed up for work looking back.

To his family, in his late teenaged years Edward suddenly began speaking in halting sentences, with huge pauses in between strings of words. He began losing his memory, and his weight. He couldn’t concentrate on one topic very long. He couldn’t sleep, and ended up in the hospital after staying awake for five days.

“You could tell he was getting tormented in his mind, and there was nothing anybody could do,” said mom Deanna Wium, who lives in Harrison Hot Springs.

The family members have come out as advocates to break stigma surrounding mental illness, and to fundraise for essential services.

Alongside Edward’s brother Deon Gallant, the family is hosting a benefit concert on Saturday night, July 6, at Evergreen Hall. The all-local line-up consists of Deon’s punk/ska/reggae band, Poison Corn, hard rock group Explicit Mental Therapy, acid rock group The Marlins, and reggae band the Early Birds.

Friends of the family, the band mates agreed to donate all proceeds to non-profit groups in Chilliwack that provide affordable housing for people with mental illness. According to local experts, access to affordable housing is the biggest issue facing people with mental illness in the community.

The concert will feature original music. Tickets are $10, and there will a 50/50 draw and door prizes. With several hundred expected attendees, the family hopes to raise thousands of dollars.

There are about 850 people in Chilliwack living with schizophrenia, according to the B.C. Schizophrenia Society’s estimate of one in 100 people.

Chilliwack has a handful of psychiatrists, each with hundreds of clients, and waiting lists for first diagnoses are many months long.

Deanna brought Edward to Abbotsford for initial testing, but it was still six weeks before he received his first medication. He then slept for 72 hours.

Before his symptoms showed up, Edward was fast on his way to a successful welding career.

“He struggled through school, but still graduated. He wanted to travel. And then this happened, and everything’s come to a stop,” said Deanna. “He’s frustrated. He’s hurt. He’s mad about the situation. He wants his life back to normal.”

Edward is still on the same career path, but at a slower pace. He is due to return to school in October for a first-year welding apprenticeship at a college in Edmonton, where he resides with his dad.

Edward has a natural aptitude for math, chemistry, and engineering. He researched the chemical imbalance that causes schizophrenia, and can take a dirt bike apart completely and put it back together.

He has been trying different medications over the last two years, seeking one that controls his symptoms while not making him drowsy, so that he can operate specialized machinery at his welding training.

Edward, now 20, hasn’t heard the negative voices since he started on anti-psychotic medication over a year ago. When he has schizophrenic symptoms now, they are usually positive and he knows how to handle them.

Edward credits much of his positive trend to recovery with a radical change in lifestyle. He goes to the gym daily, watches what he eats, and meditates at least once a day.

“I went completely on the ‘green’ side of everything. And honestly, I think that helped more than the medication. I’m sure the medication with it helped, but I think I turned it around by going on the greener side of things instead of just relying on the doctors and medication,” he said.

He is working with his psychiatrist to reduce his dosage over time, and hopes to get to the point where he only takes a pill at night, leaving him fully functional during the day.

About a quarter of people with schizophrenia will recover, and another quarter will improve with treatment, according to the B.C. Schizophrenia Society. Another quarter will need extensive community support, 15 per cent will not improve and need hospitalization, and society will lose 10 per cent to suicide.

For Edward, as he takes care of a rescued pit bull/German Shepherd mix, and maintains a healthy lifestyle while planning to continue his education, the future is hopeful.

akonevski@theprogress.com
twitter.com/alinakonevski

Just Posted

Country talent Petunia returns to Bozzini’s in Chilliwack Saturday

Petunia, performing Nov. 17, is referred to as ‘The Savior of Country Music’

Chilliwack teacher suspended 5 days for touching colleague’s buttocks

Retroactive suspension for 2017 incidents handed down by Teacher Regulation Branch

Gas prices in Metro Vancouver to drop six cents

But a ‘volatile’ market could lead to increases in the coming weeks

Chilliwack Cultural Centre seeks artists who work in a large format

Deadline Nov. 22 to submit work for Cultural Centre lobby display

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Canadians more prepared for weather disaster than financial one: poll

RBC recommends people check their bank app as often as the weather app

B.C. dog owner sues after pet killed in beaver trap

A Kamloops man is suing the operator of a trapline north of the city after his dog died

Heading soccer balls can cause damage to brain cells: UBC study

Roughly 42 per cent of children in the country play soccer, according to statistics from Heritage Canada

Supreme Court hears case on migrant detainees’ rights to challenge incarceration

Currently, migrants who do not hold Canadian citizenship can only challenge detention through an immigration tribunal or a judicial review.

Canada Post issues new offer to employees as eBay calls on Ottawa to end strikes

Ebay is calling on the federal government to legislate an end to the Canada Post contract dispute, warning that quick action is needed to ensure retailers don’t lose out on critical Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

No G20 member has climate plan strong enough to meet Paris targets: report

Canada’s push to be a world leader in the fight against climate change may be hampered by its distinction for producing the most greenhouse gas emissions per person among the world’s 20 largest economies.

Talent show: B.C. girl, 8, memorizes entire periodic table

Grade 4 student Maya Lakhanpal heads to B.C. talent show finals with unique talent

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

Most Read