At Thompson Rivers University last Thursday Beyond the Blues was held, raising awareness about mental health and wellness.
Monique Goward, a project coordinator with the B.C Schizophrenia Society and, Heather Silvester, a program manager for Crisis and Counselling of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), helped organize Beyond the Blues with other partners from the Mental Health Advisory Committee Both their respective organizations are very supportive of the event for its opportunity to have open discussions about mental health and services available for those who are struggling.
“Beyond the Blues is a CMHA initiative that happens annually, it reaches out to High School Students, talking (to them) about anxiety, depression and risky behaviour,” Goward said.
At Beyond the Blues Silvester said they also offered free mental health and wellness screening for youths and adults. Resource tables from many of the mental health agencies in town were also set up around the TRU gymnasium, providing a one-stop shop for attendees seeking information on services.
“So that was really valuable for the public to be able to pick up information, make connections and just be able to win prizes, we had draws on every table so that was great,” Silvester said. “Lots of good conversations.”
Throughout the day Goward estimates that well over 100 people passed through the event, from TRU students to younger and older members of the community, with a high number of First Nations members in attendance. Goward said that she thinks they reached a lot of different demographics and hopes to reach even more people next year.
“The response was really positive for the people I spoke with. They felt it had great value for our community, as lots of it was taking materials home to share with family members, so I think there was great value (overall),” Silvester said.
Goward agreed with Silvester and added that the feedback she received was praise for bringing the conversation of mental health to the forefront while engaging with the wider public.
Both of them also hope for more involvement from SD 27 for next year’s event throughout the district actively encouraging and facilitating students from all over to attend this important event. Silvester said that Beyond the Blues help students recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness earlier in their friends, family and loved ones and is a unique opportunity to educate young people.
“This year we had ReachOut Psychosis Tour Band, it’s part of the BC Schizophrenia Society, they came up from the Lower Mainland and gave a performance of music and self-disclosure, trying to break down this stigma of mental illness and talk about it,” Goward described.
A big act to bring to Williams Lake, Goward feels that, through their music and sharing of personal stories, they are very in line with the themes and topics they seek to address at beyond the blues. Mental anxiety, illness, and self-medication were all topics the band’s lead singer, Sarah Jickling, covered with a heavy focus on youth, which Goward said was exceptional.
“I think it was a great success this year and I think it planted seeds for the future. This is just going to ripple out (into the community),” Goward said.
For Silvester, the more they advertise and promote this event, the more they break down the stigma that too often surrounds mental health. When that happens she hopes more people will seek out their services and find their way to a healthier, happier, life.