After her son Michael, a fourth-year Concordia honours anthropology student, died suddenly in September 2017, Marianna Foldvari and her family wanted to find a way to carry his spirit forward and help others dealing with some of the same issues her son faced.
“Michael was working on his honours thesis, which looked at why people turn to virtual societies. He really wanted to understand people better, to discover reasons why they might be struggling,” she says.
In the wake of his death, Foldvari and her family created the Michael Foldvari Foundation. It works to address gaps in mental-health research and initiatives, especially where young adults are concerned. The foundation also established the Michael Foldvari Memorial Scholarship of Excellence in Humanities and Social Science at Concordia.
The annual award is intended to recognize extraordinary undergraduates who have a passion for anthropology, as well as the humanities and social sciences in general. “We’d like to support students who aren’t afraid to disagree with the status quo. We think this initiative will help motivate creativity in the next generation of change-makers,” Foldvari explains. “Michael had incredible insight into the problems of the world. He valued kindness and understanding, acceptance and unconditional love,” his mother says.
Prior to launching the foundation, the Foldvari family was involved with various charitable organizations aimed at supporting the basic needs and education of people living in impoverished countries. Michael had spent time volunteering in Ecuador. But the work the Foldvari family is doing now strikes a special chord. “Never have we been more passionate about a cause than we are about the mission of the Michael Foldvari Foundation,” Kathleen Pauloff, Michael’s sister, says.
The Foldvaris have learned a lot about the state of the health-care and social-service systems in Canada in the past few years. “There’s a lot to be done to improve mental health services for university-aged people.” She lists ineffective hotline services, limited time with psychiatrists and other mental health-care professionals and long waiting lists as some of the major barriers she has discovered since establishing the foundation. “These concerns are important, and the Michael Foldvari Foundation wants to play a role in addressing them one by one.”
Living through your child’s death is a shattering experience. Instead of looking back, however, Foldvari is looking forward for the sake of others struggling with some of the problems Michael faced during his life. “This mission gives us a sense of empowerment over helplessness and hope that one day our system will be better equipped to support people struggling with their mental health.”