BY JOSH KENNEDY
It is a well-known fact that one in five young people in Canada have a mental illness. The sad part is that two of every three of them are not getting the help they need due to the stigma surrounding it. This causes people to hide the fact that they are ill This is why the Canadian Mental Health Association launched the Stop the Stigma campaign.
The campaign’s main goal is to change people’s perception of mental illness, particularly the belief that somehow it is a choice or weakness. Organizers also want to stop the stigma which prevents those suffering from seeking help.
Public relations students at Conestoga held a meeting on Nov. 14 in the blue room to bring awareness to mental health issues and the Stop the Stigma campaign. They partnered with Mega Health at Work Inc., a company that helps other companies build a new business model with the goal of changing cultural barriers mainly within high stress occupations such as fire, police and paramedics.
According to Emma Schmidt, a public relations student at Conestoga, the meeting was geared toward “first response students such as police, paramedics and firefighters.”
The guest speakers were Debbie Bodkin, a retired police sergeant of 24 years, Holly McDonald, a probation and parole officer, and Mark Dunn, author of the book 3p’s in life: Potential, Passion and Purpose.
“Our main focus was to provide information about the importance of removing stigma in both private and public workplaces,” said Shelka Czako, co-founder and CEO of Mega Health at Work Inc. “We plan to raise discussions and provide open dialogue with people who are entering careers.”
Czako said over the last six months, 26 responders in Ontario have taken their lives because they did not receive any help due to the stigma. Stop the Stigma campaign organizers hopes their campaign will encourage people to get help so they become mentally healthy instead of becoming a statistic.