CORNWALL, Ontario – In association with National Mental Health Awareness Week, a group of approximately fifty people took to the downtown streets, on Tuesday, in support of the eighth annual Canadian Mental Health Walk, a campaign to raise awareness and decrease stigma surrounding mental illness.
“The real focus this year is to bring more education (regarding the subject),” said Angele D’Alessio, mental health promoter, CMHA Champlain East. “Awareness is great, but we really have to educate people that mental illness is an illness. It’s not any different from any other illness; it just affects the brain. It’s a brain disorder.”
Mental illness does not discriminate, regardless of age culture sex economic status; it can happen to anyone at any time, explained D’Alessio. In fact, one in five Canadians, or six million people, are affected by mental illness, the impact of which is felt by everyone, family, friends, co-workers.
“The walk is very important for people to know that this place exists” said Euclide, a member of the Starbright drop-in centre, who preferred to use only his first name. “People can participate and understand what it’s all about. It helps me a lot. It gives me a place to go in the afternoon, to calm me and pass the time. It’s a social place and it’s good for me; it gives me something to do; it’s an outing.”
As part of the event, each year, a member of the community is nominated the Hope and Resiliency Award. This year’s recipient was Lynn Sedgwick.
“This is a remarkable lady who lived with anxiety and depression but reached out for help some time ago,” said D’Alessio of the reasons for the selection. Wanting to “give back” for the support she received during her struggles, Sedgwick, earlier this year, staged a month-long, 750 km walk to raise awareness and funds for CMHA. To date she has raised over $7000.
“I’m excited and grateful that I’m being recognized, for my association with CMHA,” said Sedgwick. “Through my own illness, it offered me so many wellness tools and provided me with the energy I needed to set my goal to help others. I felt very passionate about spreading the word that mental illness is out there. It’s desperately important that we deal with it.”
Jason Menard and Mark Snelgrove created the “Moustached Men of Mental Health” Calendar. A fundraiser, supported by the Canadian Mental Health Association – Champlain East that would raise awareness of Men’s Mental Health. All the proceeds are to remain in the community. This is the second annual calendar featuring individuals who work for CMHA. The Calendar will be available in November and can be purchased at the Grind Internet Café, Fused Elements as well as the Quirky Carrot (in Alexandria)
Statistically, men don’t talk about mental illness, said D’Alessio, who added that suicide rates for men are three times higher than for women.
“Main message is that recovery is possible. Today there are lots of treatments; we’ve come a long way. Don’t be afraid to reach out whether you or someone you know is in need of help. Early intervention leads to recovery. It’s never too late, but like any illness the earlier you intervene the more successful is the recovery.”
For further information about mental illness, resources or to purchase the Moustached Men of Mental Health calendar, contact the CMHA at 613-933-5845.