Photograph of Jayne Whyte

Jayne Whyte

Jayne Whyte brings a lifetime of experience working with people living in poverty.

“I bring my stories,” she says. “My own stories, and the stories I’ve watched. I live in poverty. This is where I come from.”

Jayne spent much of her adulthood in and out of hospitals for psychiatric care. After six years receiving social assistance, she worked on contracts for 16 years, including researching the experiences of women living in poverty for Health Canada. She says her financial security improved automatically once she started receiving pensions when she turned 65. She says a guaranteed income allowed her flexibility to pursue projects that were meaningful to her. A national disability benefit could provide the same stability and opportunity, she says.

“I’d like people with disabilities to have enough security that they can care for themselves and care for others in their circle of care,” Jayne says. “When you’re on welfare and you’re hungry and worried, and you’re overloaded, you can’t care for yourself, and you can’t care for others. Poverty begets poverty. I’m very frugal. I know how to stretch a dime to a dollar, but I shouldn’t have to do that all the time.”

Jayne is passionate about facilitating creative ways for people from various socio-economic backgrounds to experience what living in poverty can be like. She was one of the first self-advocates in Saskatchewan to speak about her experiences with mental illness and various psychiatric treatments. She has been actively involved with the Canadian Mental Health Association at provincial and national levels since 1975. In 2012, she published Pivot Points: A Fragmented History of Mental Health in Saskatchewan under the name Jayne Melville Whyte.

Jayne says there needs to be greater understanding about how physical and mental disabilities are interconnected. “People with mental illness are also disabled – not all the time, and not all at the same level,” she says. Citizens need to be informed about how a disability benefit could help them and others, so they can advocate for governments to make change. “Nothing happens without political will,” she says.

Jayne earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Winnipeg. She currently lives in Regina where she continues to volunteer with various mental health organizations and the United Church of Canada. An avid reader and writer, Jayne is a member of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, and is proud to say she has not owned a television for decades.