BY AUSTIN WELLS
Mental illness and mental health can be a struggle, and it’s important to spread awareness about the detriments and suffering that these two things can cause. The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) hopes to give recognition to the people who help those in need through their Champions of Mental Health competition, which runs until Feb. 23.
Run by CAMIMH through Impact Canada, the competition recognizes seven Canadians who have been recognized as “champions” of mental health within their communities.
“This is the 16th year of the event, my first year working with it,” said Michael Hutchison, an event co-ordinator with Impact Canada. “Each year CAMIMH recognizes seven Canadians whose work has helped to advance the mental health agenda across the country. These remarkable people are recognized at our annual Champions of Mental Health Awards Gala. Awards at the gala are handed out by the Governor General, MPs and representatives from the Bell Let’s Talk organization.”
Each of the seven receive their own award, which is tailored to the recipient’s respective field. The awards include the Media award, Workplace Mental Health award, Parliament award, Community Organization and Individual awards, Innovator awards and the Sharon Johnston Champion of Mental Health Award For Youth. Winning the award is a great honour and a great way to change one’s attitude, according to Lauren Whiteway, a teen from Moncton, N.B., last year’s winner of the youth award.
“I was nominated by my mom. I didn’t know that she nominated me until I ended up winning,” Whiteway said. “I was blown away at first, because the word champion and mental health don’t really go together so that felt really good. Winning has really given me a lot more confidence and I’ve been able to collaborate with other champions and increase my awareness platform. It’s been really helpful.”
Mental health is something that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, so spreading awareness and giving recognition to the individuals who help is very important. Despite the competition/awards ceremony, the question remains: what makes a champion of mental health?
“I think that being a champion is really about perseverance through difficult times, and helping others understand that they’re not alone because mental illness can make you feel so helpless and isolated,” Whiteway said.
If you know of an individual or organization that you feel demonstrates the qualities of a champion of mental health that you’d like to nominate for an award, or for more information, visit www.camimh.ca/champions-of-mental-health/nominate-a-champion/ or call 647-317-9057.