CMHA-NL branches out
By Carol Hopkins
There was standing room only as people came from far and near to celebrate the official opening of the Canadian Mental Health Association – Newfoundland and Labrador (CMHA-NL) office in Stephenville on March 13.
The office will offer services to the whole western region. The event marks the first time there will be an office beyond the Avalon Peninsula.
One of the goals of the CMHA-NL is to “promote a better understanding of mental health and mental illness in the province,” according to the CMHA website.
Mental health has been garnering more publicity leading to greater awareness in the province and in the nation.
“Mental health and mental health issues, as you probably may know, are pretty much in the limelight today; It’s been a long time coming,” said George Skinner, CMHA-NL executive director. “Statistics say one in five will experience mental health issues during their lifetime. Personally, I think (the statistic) it’s probably larger than that.”
The executive director referred to Bell Canada’s initiative to increase awareness and lessen the stigma surrounding mental illness in the campaign, Let’s talk. He spoke about the need to talk and acknowledged that, while there has been a lot of movement toward eliminating the stigma attached to mental illness, there is still work to be done toward that end.
“So – let’s talk,” he said.
Skinner gave credit to the role the provincial government played in providing funding for the new office, as well as to the army of volunteers who work tirelessly for the organization. The new offices were realized, in part, through the fundraising efforts of volunteers.
The CMHA’s board of directors is a mixture of volunteers and paid staff members.
Calvin Barrett is one of three people from the West coast invited to sit on the board of directors six years ago. Since that time the board has been pushing for a CMHA presence outside of the Avalon Peninsula.
He was very happy to be there to celebrate the official opening of the regional office in Stephenville.
“You could hardly envision that the real change, the real presence would come today in the form of an office and staff – and that’s remarkable,” Barrett said.
Barrett’s satisfaction is in knowing that the CMHA will be providing services across the island with another new office opened in Grand Falls-Windsor on March 15.
“Mental health issues are everywhere. Everybody needs to take responsibility to ensure better mental health care for the whole community,” Barrett said.
The event was attended by a wide swath of community leaders, leaders of various organizations and charities, politicians and the general public.
A celebratory atmosphere prevailed throughout the celebration with many people partaking of the refreshments that were provided.
The general consensus was one of gladness to have a CMHA-NL office on the West coast, and one of acknowledgement of the need for it.