IROQUOIS – The suicide rate in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry and Prescott-Russell is twice the provincial average. That is the reason the local Canadian Mental Health Agency and people like Augusta Waddell, believe so strongly in the importance of mental health promotion in schools.
Waddell’s late son suffered from mental health issues and since his loss, Waddell has tirelessly worked toward improving mental health locally, by making the community more aware of the help and resources that are available. Also, she has been part of fundraising initiatives that have helped bring funds and awareness to programs that she believes are important to have locally.
Joanne Ledoux-Moshonas, manager of mental health promotions with the local mental health agency, accepted a cheque November 1, from Augusta Waddell and Margaret Swerdfeger, who organized a Halloween dance and silent auction fundraiser. The well-supported event raised $6,166.
“The event was great,” said Waddell. “The support was amazing.”
Swerdfeger, said that the silent auction featured some wonderful items, generously donated by both individuals and business, not only locally but from across the region.
“People were very supportive of the auction, but what was remarkable, was that people who came to the event and supported the auction, often just wrote a cheque to donate to the cause too,” said Swerdfeger. “People are just so generous.”
Ledoux-Moshonas was overwhelmed by the amount of money raised through this one time event.
The CMHA’s Mental Health Promotion in Schools program is not at all supported through government funding, so all of the funds that make this program which costs about $175,000 to operate annually, comes through fundraising and donations.
Mental Health Promotion in Schools is a program that the CMHA strives to take to every school, especially intermediate and high schools.
The five day program works on day one to dispel myths, teaches about the various disorders on day two and day three focuses on suicide prevention.
“That is an important focus,” said Ledoux-Moshonas, adding that the suicide rate in this area is twice that of the provincial average.
Day four educates students on stress management and the supports that are available to help and day five features a guest speaker who shares a personal experience with mental illness.
The CMHA works in the schools to try and alleviate some of the stigma surrounding mental health. Stigma continues to be a huge problem for people living with mental illness.
This stigma can hinder those with mental illness and their families from reaching out for the help they need.
Waddell sees this stigma as a barrier for the family support group sessions that she has organized to take place once a month in Iroquois. While people will stop her on the street for a chat, she still has yet to have people come to the family support group sessions.
“People want to talk, but they won’t come, because they are embarrassed. Often they are frustrated by the system, and if they would come out, we could share our experiences and help. Talking about it makes life easier,” said Waddell.
She will continue to be at the Iroquois Civic Centre at 6 p.m., the third Tuesday of every month, for anyone who needs the family support group. Anyone interested or with questions can email Augusta directly at firstname.lastname@example.org