While great strides have been made concerning mental-health awareness, more needs to be done, advocates at a special launch event at the Chatham-Kent Civic Centre said Monday.
About 150 people were in attendance for a flag-raising to kick off Mental Health Week, hosted by the Mental Health Network of Chatham-Kent and Hope House, the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and Bell Canada.
Cindy Board told the crowd about her experience with mental illness and the hope she was finally given years later.
Diagnosed as bipolar, she suffered a major breakdown 22 years ago on Christmas Day. She said she felt crushed under the weight of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
“I didn’t want to be here anymore,” she said, noting she was admitted to hospital and had further treatment in Windsor.
With faith and perseverance, Board was able to develop a plan and a routine for her life. She eventually learned about Hope House in Chatham.
“I felt so comfortable and warm, and felt like there was a new family here,” she said.
She now loves herself and feels like she has a purpose in life.
“I appreciate everything that Hope House has done for me,” she said.
Kelly Gottschling, executive director for the Mental Health Network and Hope House, credited the community partners for their work in helping spread awareness.
She urged people to continue to take action, saying attitude can make a significant difference.
“As employers, family members, friends and community members, we must ask ourselves: ‘What are we doing to educate and promote understanding and just simple kindness?'” she said. “How do we try to support someone who might be struggling with symptoms?
“Being kind is so much easier than being judgmental or dismissive.”
Gottschling added that Hope House provides support and encouragement to mental-health survivors, as well as their families and friends.
There are also numerous programs and services available across the region.
“We have created a safe and lovely space where we offer leisure and recreational opportunities, social rehabilitation, health and wellness modules, art classes, music groups, mood disorder groups, exercise programs, peer support, healthy eating initiatives,” she said. “As well as LGBTQ groups for youth, just to name a few.”
Mayor Darrin Canniff said there has been increased public interest in the cause over the years.
“We have so much more work to do, but we’ve come so far to recognize the significance of mental health in our community,” he said.
For more information about the Mental Health Network of Chatham-Kent, visit mhnck.com.