By David F. Rooney
It has been a decade since the Revelstoke Awareness and Outlook Program (RAOP) was created and its members will celebrate that evolution with a party during an open house on Wednesday, September 30, between 1 and 3 pm.
RAOP is a quiet, unassuming program operating from the yellow-painted wooden structure tucked away in the alley beside the Regent Hotel off of First Street East. Started in an attempt to better integrate people with mental illnesses, RAOP has achieved that goal but it still has work to do reaching younger people, particularly young men, says Peter Waters, one of its founding members.
“Age is a barrier we have to hurdle if we want to reach them,” he said in an interview.
Most of RAOP’s current members are seniors like Peter or are in late middle age and it has difficulty connecting with young people.
“Some look at us and go, ‘Oh, it’s for old people,’” he said, adding that establishing a lasting connection with young people is important to the program’s future.
RAOP currently has about 10 members, down from a high of over 20 some years ago. Death has taken six members. Others have left town and some have difficulty accepting the fact that they must grapple with mental illness for the rest of their lives. Bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and other conditions can be treated but some of the medications have bizarre or unpleasant side effects.
Membership has its benefits.
“We have group activities almost every day,” Peter said. Tuesdays are spent playing cards, chess or checkers. Wednesdays are dedicated to watercolour painting guided by local painter Georgia Sumner, Thursdays are devoted to group discussions and on Fridays members eat popcorn and watch movies obtained through the public library. Field trips and picnics are also organized from time to time.
RAOP offers a safe environment where members can socialize and discuss issues. It has painting classes taught by watercolourist Georgia Sumner and some of her students exhibit their work publicly at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre. There are movie nights and field trips, barbeques and picnics are also on offer.
All of these activities are considered safe for members who might sometimes feel self-conscious. If you suffer from a mental illness Revelstoke is a pretty good place to be. The town and its people are for the most part compassionate and caring and RAOP members rarely encounter public prejudice.
The group has survived its first decade and having won a fair degree of public acceptance it now seems prepared to face its next 10 years.
RAOP’s Tenth Anniversary Party is to be held on Wednesday, September 30, from 1 pm until 3 pm. There will be cake and refreshments or the group’s members and friends. How can you pass that up?
By David F. Rooney