One man’s struggle against mental illness
By Ted Alcuitas
The Canadian Association for Mental Health (CAMH) has named Francis Arevalo as one of 150 leading Canadians who are making a difference for mental health.
The Vancouver-born and raised hip-hop artist and slam poet was carving a name in the city’s artistic community before he was diagnosed as bipolar.
Arevalo graduated as Valedictorian at Johnston Heights Secondary School and went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree from UBC majoring in English.
He worked as a Faciltator at Wordplay Poetry House.
While at UBC he was the Residence life coordinator and advisor, becoming a Social Media Lead & Learning Commons Assistant at Chapman Learning Commons.
In 2014, he won the Student Leadership Conference’s Faces of Today Award and was listed as one of “24 under 24” upcoming personalities in Vancouver 24 Hours.
After his recovery, he started A Night With Friends,collaborating with his creative family The Lions We Are.
He released two mixtape in 2017: ‘Love & Basketball’ in January, and “TLWA” with The Lions We Are in June.
With his company, Francis Arevalo Music, he strives to “connect with others, exploring meaning through community-building and creative expression. He aims to uplift, entertain, and inspire through honest lyrics and performances”.
Here is how CAMH described his climb back from the highs and lows of his experience with mental illness.
“The year before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Francis Arevalo was an up-and-coming slam poet and hip-hop artist in Vancouver’s artistic community.
That was before his illness almost caused him to lose everything.
At his low point, Francis lost touch with reality, destroyed friendships, and became mired in debt.
In 2015, he was arrested, sent to psychiatric care and put on mood-stabilizing medication that led him to gain 80 pounds.
Unable to remember much of his activities during his peak mania, he struggled to navigate the painful consequences of his illness. Overwhelmed, a year after leaving psychiatric care he attempted suicide.
It was a wake-up call, and he committed himself to finding the help he needed to live a new life.
He worked hard to find consistency with his medication, went back to work, began exercising and started making music again.
In 2016 Francis released his first hip-hop album with his best friends and family, demonstrating that while recovery is not about returning to the life you lived before experiencing mental illness, it is possible to breathe new life into past dreams.”