The pursuit of higher education can be very rewarding. For people faced with a mental health issue or illness, earning an education can also be therapeutic.
But post-secondary education also has its challenges – financially and mentally. This is especially the case for some individuals who are living with a mental illness.
The Health Care Foundation and Eastern Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Program recognize these challenges and have been working together for many years now to support higher education for those faced with a mental illness through the Moving Lives Forward Scholarship Program.
This program provides $30,000 worth of scholarships a year to individuals who have received services through Eastern Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Program. Scholarships are valued up to $1,000 each per recipient, per semester, and are allocated for tuition, fees and books/materials.
Krista Wade, a program manager with the Eastern Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Program and chair of the Health Care Foundation’s Moving Lives Forward Committee believes the name of the program is fitting.
“This program is very helpful in assisting clients to literally move their lives forward,” she explains. “Outside of student loans, most financial assistance for students is based on their academic performance; this is not the case for Moving Lives Forward. Rather, applications for scholarships are reviewed by a committee of mental health and addictions’ clinicians to ensure that the need is there and that the financial support will help them reach their personal goals.”
The Moving Lives Forward Program recognizes the therapeutic value of education by assisting people who wish to take a course offered by a post-secondary institution or personal development courses.
“Education can provide people with knowledge and skills for problem solving and can help to provide a sense of control and mastery over life-circumstances, which is important to many of our clients who are faced with mental health issues. By empowering our clients to advance their education, we are also helping them find meaningful employment, and that’s so important to individuals who want financial stability,” said Krista.
Applicants to the Moving Lives Forward Program come from many walks of life and can vary in age from 18 to 65.
“Since the program began there has been a significant increase in applicants. Generally, we see people who are just starting their education, but we also see a number of individuals whose education journey has been interrupted because of a mental health issue or illness. The type of health issue varies – we have some applicants who experience anxiety, depression, an addiction, and also others who have specialized types of illnesses such as an eating disorder or a trauma,” said Krista.
Moving Lives Forward Scholarships have helped change the lives of numerous individuals living with mental illness and addictions – individuals like Dana Aylward.
Dana, 36, was recently awarded funding through the program to help her finish her Master of Education.
“Words cannot describe what this scholarship means to me and how it will provide me with a sense of accomplishment by allowing me to finally finish my masters after struggling for seven years,” explains Dana. “These past few years I’ve been dealing with issues I have not wanted to face – an eating disorder that crippled me from progressing in my life personally, romantically, professionally and spiritually. Finishing my education would be a step in a positive healthy direction.”
Dana has seen her share of obstacles in achieving her educational goals. In addition to living with an eating disorder and the financial stress of living on one income, she also lost her father last October and now takes care of her mother.
“Having the opportunity to finish my last course in my masters will open up doors to advance my career and increase my self-worth. I will finally be able to say ‘I’m finished’ and I did it in the face of adversity,” said Dana.
“This funding will positively impact my life and well-being because it minimizes the financial hardship, allowing me to fulfil my educational goals. Dr. Tanis Adey with Eastern Health has been a huge support with this and I cannot thank her enough for getting me here,” she added.
Moving Lives Forward has been a success thanks to the generosity of donors to the Health Care Foundation, especially Bell Aliant who has sponsored the program for four years now and previous sponsor, Eli Lily, who helped get the program off the ground.
For more information about Moving Lives Forward, please visit www.healthcarefoundation.ca. ■
This story was written by Jackie O’Brien, manager of communications and stewardship at the Health Care Foundation.