My first job in university was with an organization called the Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health. (Try saying that every time you answer the phone!) My job at the Centre was to help coordinate the Dare to Dream program. The Dare to Dream program is a grants program for young people. Youth 18 or under can apply for a grant of up to $5000 to promote mental health and well-being in. Any youth led project that increases awareness of mental health issues could apply, as long as they are in Ontario. You can see some examples of different projects by visiting their website, www.daretodreamprogram.ca.
Working on Dare to Dream gave me the incredible opportunity to go to different conferences on mental health and to participate in different programs with people who knew about mental health and mental illness first hand. I learned how mental health is a lot like your physical health, it’s something that can have its highs and lows and it is something that affects everyone. Working with the amazing people at the Centre of Excellence and with different youth across the province made a lasting impression on me. The way I look at mental health, mental illness and the people it affects it totally different then before I worked there. I have a great appreciation on effect that it has on our day to day lives. Whenever I hear about a great initiative that is raising awareness and lowering stigma around mental health, I want to share it.
As many people know Clara Hughes, one of Canada’s most successful Olympians ever, suffered from depression. Now she is trying to raise awareness around mental health. The past few years she has been championing the Bell Let’s Talk Day. Just this week she started Clara’s Big Ride, a 110- day national bike tour. The bike tour is visiting every province and territory and cover 12,000km. The goal of Clara’s Big Ride is to help grow awareness, acceptance, and action to create a stigma-free Canada. Riding across Clara will visit 95 communities to encourage all Canadians to be part of the conversation about mental health and help end the stigma around mental illness. You can learn more about Clara’s Big Ride and find out when she’s visiting a community near you on her website at clarasbigride.bell.ca.
I wanted to share this to show my support for Clara’s ride across Canada but more importantly for her mission to get people talking about mental health and illness. If we don’t talk about how mental health affects every one of us. We’ll never have the information and power to make a change in our communities.
I think it’s important for athletes and other role models to support causes that mean a lot to them. They can highlight important issues that our society is facing and help make change happen in communities across the country.
For more information about mental health check out some of the sites below, this is by no means an exhaustive list; there are tons of great resources available.
- The Canadian Mental Health Association – cmha.ca
- Mental Health Commission of Canada – mentalhealthcommission.ca
- Kids Help Phone – kidshelpphone.ca
- Distress Centre Ottawa and Region – dcottawa.on.ca
- Youth Net – youthnet.on.ca