Friday, 12 May 2017 05:50

CMHA Mayor’s Luncheon highlights the importance of talking about mental health

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Kyle Moffatt speaks at the 13th annual CMHA Mayor's Luncheon in Swift Current, May 2. Kyle Moffatt speaks at the 13th annual CMHA Mayor's Luncheon in Swift Current, May 2.

The importance of a positive environment for people to talk about their mental health was highlighted during the 13th annual Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Mayor’s Luncheon at the Living Sky Casino in Swift Current, May 2.


The event reflected the National Mental Health Week theme of “Mental Health for All.” The guest speaker was Regina resident Kyle Moffatt, who became an advocate for mental health after his father Wade took his own life in August 2015.
Kyle spoke about his father’s struggle with bipolar disorder and alcohol addiction. He noted people find it easy to suggest to others they need to talk about their problems, but they are not good at following their own advice.
“We’re very quick to tell other people to get help or very quick to encourage our friends, our co-workers, everybody to seek help but we don’t always take that advice,” he said during an interview after the event. “Often times, it’s because we feel very isolated. We feel like everybody else is doing well.”
During his presentation, he talked about his love and admiration for his dad, but he also referred to the bad moments of his father’s struggle and the impact it had on the family.
“I just want people to know that it’s a real story,” he said about the presentation. “Dad was an amazing man. I loved my dad, and it was the other Wade, the other guy, that I despised. I hope somebody can hear that story and find a relation in their own life and seek help. That’s all that I can really hope from that.”
Wade Moffatt was a former general manager of CTV Saskatchewan and well-known in the community. The family therefore decided to talk publicly about Wade’s struggles after his death.
“Everybody was interested in it because of who dad was and where he worked,” Kyle said. “So me and my mom and my sister made a decision (from) day one to talk about this and for them that was good. It was good for them to get open.”
He also finds it helps him to deal with the loss by talking publicly about his dad, because it allows him to reflect on things that happened and to work through his grief.
“So for me, there has not come a time yet where speaking about this has hurt,” he said. “It’s still emotional. Talking about my best friend that’s gone still wrecks me, but it hurts me a lot more when I’m home alone and my family is not there and I’m just sitting by myself in my house. That’s way harder than speaking at an event like this.”
Last year, the family started a fundraising event in Regina in support of the education and advocacy work of the CMHA in Saskatchewan.
The 2017 Wade Moffatt Memorial Gala took place May 5.
“The really special thing about that event as well as this event, for any of these mental health events, is you hear people at tables having these conversations they would never have anywhere else while just going about their daily life,” he said. “So my event, this event, they all set us examples of how we want this conversation to happen. ... We just want to make it a very natural thing that people talk about their mental health.”
According to Cortney Reynolds, the executive director  of the CMHA Swift Current branch, it is important to have an event such as the annual Mayor’s Luncheon to get people talking about mental health.
“One of the messages we always like to reinforce is we all have mental health, just as we all have physical health,” she said. “We need to take care of it and we need to break down those stigmas and those barriers that are causing people such as Kyle’s dad not getting help because of the perception that society has that he has this perfect life. If we can break down stigmas and allow people to go and access the help they need, that is just so important.”
She noted mental illness should not be viewed any different than when an individual is dealing with another illness or challenge.
“When a person mentions a physical illness or they have cancer or they’re in the hospital for a surgery, people will come and they’ll bring flowers and they’ll talk about it, but if you’re in the hospital for severe depression we don’t acknowledge it, we don’t talk about it,” she said. “So people feel even more alone when they’re dealing with a mental health issue and it would be really great if we could break that barrier and that stigma and when someone does get help, celebrate that and support them and have those conversations.”
The funds raised at the luncheon will be used to support the activities and programs of the CMHA in Swift Current. They provide services to about 45 to 50 members on a regular basis. The meal program, which includes breakfast and lunch with leftovers taken home for supper, served 7,325 meals in 2016.
“At our Swift Current branch, we have a clubhouse model and so individuals can have membership to the clubhouse,” she said. “We provide educational, life skills, recreational and social programs. A lot of times with mental illness people isolate. They don’t leave the house, they’re not motivated, so we’re just there as a supportive place that’s a supportive, warm environment that accepts them. It provides them with opportunities to socialize, to try new things, just to get that little boost when they’re going through a hard time.”
The four core functions of the CMHA in Swift Current are to build capacity, influence policy, provide services, and develop resources. One of their goals is to do more to raise public awareness about mental health issues.
“We have for a long time focused on our members in-house and one of the things that we would like to do at CMHA is really continue and go forward with community education and awareness,” she said.
“We want to really provide a leadership role in that education and community awareness piece.”
The CMHA has two full-time and one part-time staff members in Swift Current. The non-profit organization raises about 40 per cent of its own funding and the remaining 60 per cent is government funding.
Reynolds is concerned about the potential impact of a recent announcement by the provincial government that funding by health regions to community based organizations (CBO) will be cut by 10 per cent, but the final decision on these cuts will only be made in July.
“So we don’t know where we stand at this point,” she said. “The money does come through the health regions. So the health regions have to provide their input, then it will go to the government and then the final decision would be made from the government.”
She noted the CMHA in Swift Current is able to achieve a lot with a limited budget and they appreciate the ongoing support of the community.
“We do what we do with very little funding,” she said. “It's amazing in a non-profit environment when you have staff that work on their heart and they do so much on their own time. They just put in so much and we do such amazing work with such limited funds. We’re so grateful to our community for the donations, the support that they provide to us. We couldn’t do what we do without the community support.”

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Matthew Liebenberg

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