Janice Breck, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association Cariboo Chilcotin Branch said some of her staff is working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Mental Health Week, May 4-10, urges Canadians to #getreal

CMHA Cariboo Chilcotin Branch continues to be busy during COVID-19

Often when people are asked how they are doing, they will answer ‘I’m fine, thanks.’

In response to that phrase, the theme for Mental Health Week in Canada is #getreal, said Janice Breck, executive director of Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Cariboo Chilcotin Branch.

“When a person says, ‘I’m fine, thanks,’ what does that really mean?”

“It could mean I’m not feeling like myself right now and I’m worried about my family’s health and what’s going on at my work and I’m not really coping and I need someone to talk to,” Breck said as an example. “Or it could mean ‘I’m grateful for your friendship because I know I can always count on you and that means the world to me and makes me feel like I can conquer anything.”

The theme of the week is about asking people to get real about how they feel, she added.

When asked how her own office in Williams Lake is doing through the novel coronavirus pandemic she confirmed they are busy.

Some counsellors are working from home. Two are in the office, and see people every now and then, and when they do they go into the big meeting room to keep a physical distance.

“When we call it social distancing, it isn’t necessarily accurate. What we mean is physical distancing. We all need that social connection without being physical.”

Read more: Crisis line volunteers needed at CMHA

The office is open 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., closed at lunch hour, but staff are available until 4:30 p.m. for counselling sessions.

By closing the doors to the public at 3 p.m., Breck said they can do clean up and sanitizing of the building.

“People are definitely stressed, even my staff. The pandemic is hard on everyone — that’s for sure,” Breck said.

Locally CMHA offers counselling, homeless outreach, Housing First, community-based victim services and advocacy.

Normally the homeless outreach worker Wayne Lucier would accompany people to ministry offices, but the offices are presently closed to the public.

“I know he’s been helping people access their money and that kind of thing,” Breck said of Lucier’s efforts.

Housing First has still moved a few clients during the pandemic, and the woman who runs the program is fairly busy, Breck added.

“She’s not driving clients around like she used to, but is still holding interviews with clients who are looking for housing.”

Breck said there has been an increase with domestic issues, either couples breaking up or actual violence happening where people have had to leave a residence.

“We heard about domestic issues in Vancouver, but it’s also something that has been happening here too.”

With the novel coronavirus, CMHA in Williams Lake won’t be hosting an event to mark Mental Health Week but will continue to reach out on the Facebook page and provide materials to people who inquire. There is also information on the website about available help.

Normally they’d go bowling during Mental Health Week, she added, but said they cannot do that this year.

Read more: CMHA hosting third annual chocolate strawberry Valentine’s fundraiser


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Canadian Mental Health Association Cariboo Chilcotin Branch has kept open during the COVID-19 pandemic, but reduced public hours to give staff time to clean up and sanitize the building. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

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