BY JULIA BROWN
What happens when a room full of people all have the same goals? Change.
On Feb. 16 at Otello’s banquet hall, the Oakville Chamber of Commerce partnered with Bell Canada to continue last month’s Let’s Talk campaign for mental health.
At the banquet hall’s top capacity with 214 people in attendance, Bell was recognized for opening the door to help people come together to talk about mental health. It was thanked for helping make the world a safe environment for people to come forward and talk about their struggles. “Mental health used to be whispered about. No one really talked about it and that has really changed.” said Oakville Chamber of Commerce president, John Sawyer. “That’s why we keep events like these open to the public.”
With the phone lines ringing off the hook, people were asking to be put on a waiting list to attend the event. This is a hopeful sign that the turnout will continue to grow and that more people will become informed about mental health.
“I am a believer in promoting mental health. When you’re struggling it can snowball into something much worse,” said France Fournier, vice president of operations for the Oakville Chamber of Commerce.
Not only were there multiple sponsors showing their support but Dr. Ian Dawe was there as well to talk to the crowd about what can be done to make a difference. Dawe is a mental health advocate as well as the program chief and medical director of Mental Health at Trillium Health Partners. He was recently appointed as chair of the Ontario Hospital Association’s Suicide Prevention Standards Task Force.
“Every week, half a million Canadians miss work due to mental health. We can no longer wait until the people suffering come to us. We need to invest sooner.” Dawe told the crowd.
Thirty minutes into his talk, Dawe said something that made the hall applaud, whistle and cheer.
“This is just the goal. This is what we are working towards. In 2025 not one person will die by suicide in the Halton area.” said Dawe. “It is up to us and I think we should go for it. I think we should do it together.”
Lena Demarco, regional director community affairs for Bell Canada, presented the Distress Centre of Halton with a $20,000 cheque to help them run two call centres. If one centres phone lines are busy people will be directed to the other line. More than 1,000 calls and texts come in to the distress line a month, so this was a very big step in the right direction and a big moment for Bell and the distress centre staff.
“This is a conversation that cannot be talked about too many times,” Dawe stressed. “It is about the notion of changing how we understand.”
As the banquet hall slowly emptied there were nothing but smiles and a sense of togetherness. There was a radiating energy that each person in the room was ready to make a change and continue the conversation about mental health.
- Dr. Ian Dawe’s Tips to Taking Care of Yourself:
– Identify your problems
– Solve your problems
– Talk about your problems
– Learn about stress management
– Reduce tension
– Take your mindset off your problems