‘The stigma is losing its power over us:’ mental health week begins in P.A.

Participants march down Central Avenue for the 4th annual mental health awareness walk on May 6, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

“Be mindful that mental health is everything. It’s as important as our physical health.”

– Anna-Marie Huybrecht, Program Director of CMHA Prince Albert Branch

Chanting people holding neon green signs marched along Central Avenue on Monday morning for the first day of mental health week.

The week’s events began with not only an awareness walk, but a reading from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)’s Writing For Your Life Group at City Hall.

This year’s theme is ‘#GetLoud about what mental health really is.’

Ian McIntyre has been part of the writing group since it began in 2012.

Ian McIntyre reads his poetry at City Hall for mental health week on May 6, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

As someone with schizophrenia, he said mental illnesses are more than just anxiety and depression.

“There’s not that many people who have schizophrenia or bipolar. They’re kind of rare. That almost makes me a minority,” he said.

Although he feels it took too long, McIntyre said society is becoming more accepting of mental illness.

“The stigma is losing its power over us because (we’re teaching) this generation…to grow up knowing better than to judge and to ridicule us for things that are beyond our control.”

He described a mental condition arising like a volcano, which can be dormant for years before erupting.

“People have to understand a mental illness comes about because there’s a chemical imbalance in someone’s brain,” he added.

He uses his experiences with schizophrenia as inspiration, turning it into an art form.

“Writing is a very healing thing and writing has become a healthy outreach for me,” he explained.

After reading his poetry, McIntyre and other members of the group joined the awareness walk.

You could hear the crowd of people chanting ‘stop the stigma’ as they held up signs that read ‘stop discrimination,’ ‘#GetLoud’ and ‘recovery.’

Program Director of CMHA Prince Albert Branch, Anna-Marie Huybrecht, said mental health week is for “a moment of reflection.”

“Be mindful that mental health is everything. It’s as important as our physical health,” she said. “Self care is important. It’s important to take a minute to breathe and to think about things that make us happy because in our busy days, we forget that.”

The awareness walk has been going on for four years in a row, as well as the art gala, which takes place on Tuesday from 4-6 p.m. at the Art Centre.

Then, on Friday at 10 a.m., is the ribbon cutting of Joni’s Place on 538 7th Street East.

The mental health housing development is named after Joan (Joni) Hladun, who passed away last October.

She was a longterm board member of the CMHA in Prince Albert.

According to CMHA National, one in five people experience a mental health problem or illness and it is not dependent on culture, age, income or education.