Women and wellness, the early days

By Eva Navrot and Sheila Cohen

Women and wellness arose out of a snowstorm and a family’s loss.

  • Mar. 25, 2011 7:00 a.m.

By Eva Navrot and Sheila Cohen

Women and wellness arose out of a snowstorm and a family’s loss.

The January 2001 snowstorm meant Helen MacDonnell couldn’t get out for a break.

Instead she hit upon the idea of a January party — wine, women and treats.

She invited 20 friends, had a blast, and repeated it in 2002.

There would be no party in January 2003.

Helen’s brother Duncan died by suicide that month.

She realized —  too late — that he suffered from bipolar disorder, something she knew little about.

So she began her journey to better understand mental-health disorders.

She was astounded to learn how common mental illnesses are and how stigma and lack of awareness prevents sufferers from receiving help.

In January 2004, the first Women and Wellness was held at Helen’s Riverview, New Brunswick home, where 54 women gathered to laugh, cry, share stories and positive energy, only a group of women can create.

More than $1,200 was donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association — Moncton. To date this event has helped raise more than $500,000 in total.

The event has grown each year with the kind donations of guests and generous corporate sponsorships, including its new national sponsor, Shoppers Drug Mart.

It has evolved into an annual coast-to-coast fundraiser with events being held in Atlantic Canada, Ontario and B.C.

This event was founded on both the notion that we all deserve an occasional break and the belief more must be done to support those with mental illness, their families, and friends.

Remember, regardless of who you are, there is no health without mental health.

Cariboo women will gather in Williams Lake on March 30 from 7 to 10 p.m. to raise their glasses and their voices to break the silence about mental illness. The evening will be comprised of inspirational guest speakers, entertainment, delicious hors d’ oeuvres and refreshments and fabulous conversation among guests.

For information regarding this event contact Eva Navrot at 250-302-91129 or Sheila Cohen at 250-305-4487. Details of venue will be given at time of RSVP.