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Richmond's Pathways member shares his story at fundraiser dinner

When the world's economy entered a state of global crisis in 2008, so did David Hanes' own world. As an investment sales representative at BMO in Vancouver, he felt the pressure from frustrated clients looking to point fingers.

When the world's economy entered a state of global crisis in 2008, so did David Hanes' own world.

As an investment sales representative at BMO in Vancouver, he felt the pressure from frustrated clients looking to point fingers.

Added on, was the death of his grandmother and a less than ideal living situation.

"It all started falling apart then," he said. "That's when I started feeling severe anxiety and having paranoid thoughts."

His first episode came in 2009 when he believed he was getting death threats.

Needing to escape, he returned to Japan, where his wife worked and he had previously taught English for three years. But the thoughts only followed him.

"It was total psychosis," the 38-year-old said. "At one point I walked down to a river and swam across it to escape. That's when my wife suggested moving back here and seeking some help."

He checked into the psychiatric ward at Richmond Hospital and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

"I've been on the mend ever since."

Hanes will share his story at the Pathways Clubhouse seventh annual fundraiser dinner on Oct. 3 at the Executive Airport Plaza hotel.

With a silent auction, WestJet draw, and raffle, the event seeks to raise awareness and funds for Pathways programming.

"Often when people talk about mental illness, they think it's yucky," said Dave MacDonald, executive director. "People don't want to talk about it, but we want to say that it's okay. It's just an illness like any other, and it's okay to seek help."

The clubhouse helps members recover from mental illness through a support system that focuses on their strengths and develops skills. All jobs are volunteer-based and members choose which role they want to assume, be it clerical duties, food services, outreach, social or working in the thrift store. Lunch is served daily.

On a Tuesday morning, the clubhouse bustles. Just beginning the 9 a.m. meeting, most people congregate in the kitchen to discuss the day's schedule and events.

"We really try not to differentiate between members and staff," said MacDonald, walking through the various rooms, greeting people along the way.

"We get to know everyone. When someone doesn't come in for a few days, we usually give them a call just to say, 'Hey, how are things?'"

Although hospitalization helped Hanes with the most severe aspects of his illness, the period that followed was filled with feelings of isolation and loss. He went through six jobs in a desperate attempt to regain a sense of normalcy.

Back in the spring, Hanes' days were the darkest. Feeling depressed and at the end of his rope, he took the advice of a woman at his building when she suggested Pathways.

When he walked through the doors in April, MacDonald put him straight to work - preparing lunch, cleaning toilets and making a PowerPoint presentation for mental health awareness week.

Undeterred by that busy first day, Hanes has returned to Pathways every day since.

"I'm here to heal," said Hanes. "You can come and not be judged. Everyone goes out of their way to get to know you. It's that added personal touch. And everything is integrated, where there's no difference in treatment between staff and members. You feel like someone special again. It's very unique that way."

Recognizing his business background, MacDonald asked Hanes to work on organizing the fundraiser dinner and was impressed by his abilities, particularly in attracting sponsors.

"Mental illness runs in my family," said Hanes. "So I'll do anything to give to the community. It's something that can affect anyone at any time."

He says family members have noticed a marked difference in him ever since he joined Pathways. Although he's eager to return to work, Hanes wants to focus on healing now.

"I don't want to rush into anything just yet. My wife might have an opportunity in Japan, so I might start teaching English there again. It's something I really enjoyed and didn't find too stressful. It's meaningful and has a purpose."

Tickets for the fundraiser dinner are on sale until Monday, Sept. 24 for $50 per person, $360 for a table of eight, and $450 for a table of 10. The dinner begins at 5:30 p.m. For more information, contact 604-276-8834, ext. 34, or dave.macdonald@cmha.bc.ca.