By Sheila Pritchard, Clinton News Record
Huron County came together to talk about mental health and addiction at Speak Loud Seaforth last Wednesday night.
The free event was open to public — both youth and adults were encouraged to attend — and was presented by the Seaforth Public School Parent Council in collaboration with the Tanner Steffler Foundation and local service organizations.
Coinciding with Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 31, the aim of the evening’s presentation was to educate, end stigma, and create awareness about mental illness and substance use supports and services offered in the area.
The goal of the Tanner Steffler Foundation is to create a culture of change in mental health, addiction and wellness services for youth and their families in Huron County.
It’s a fact that one in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lifetime. One of the biggest hurdles for anyone suffering from mental illness is overcoming the stigma. It is the number one reason why two-thirds of those living with a mental illness do not seek help.
A person with a mental health problem has a higher risk of having a substance use problem, just as a person with a substance use problem has an increased chance of having a mental health problem.
Youth mental health and addiction is an area of concern for the entire healthcare, law and education partners and is an identified area of need within our community.
Speak Loud presentations began with the RCMP video “Choosing the Winning Path” in which personal stories were told by youth facing and overcoming difficult life choices.
Following the video, representatives from local service organizations and the Tanner Steffler Foundation spoke — often emotionally, always passionately — about their own personal journeys. Presenters and speakers included:
Terri Sparling, CEO Huron Perth Centre, spoke about the services offered by the Centre, including youth and adult consultation and counselling and prompt, personalized care;
David Greer, Huron OPP Community Mobilization & Mental Health Team spoke about the Huron County OPP’s role in education in our schools and ways the police hope to better deal with those experiencing mental health and substance emergencies;
Alex Wreford from Choices for Change shared his own moving and inspiring story about mental health, addiction, attempted suicide, and finally finding his way to recovery in his presentation "Never Give Up";
Jodie Baker, Superintendent of Education Avon Maitland District School Board (AMDSB), spoke about the importance of awareness and prevention within the school system;
Dr. Anne Robinson, AMDSB Mental Health Lead, explained the difference between mental health and illness and talked about resources available to students and families;
Erin Robinson, Treasurer of the Tanner Steffler Foundation, spoke in her presentation "Together We Must Do Better" about the importance of the foundation’s work and its vision for the future.
Harrowing experiences with mental health and addiction were shared, along with the challenges and triumphs within the system that is currently in place in Huron County for individuals struggling and families in need.
Although the guest speakers’ personal stories were different, many of their deeper experiences were the same.
The event was concluded with an expert panel discussion, followed by questions from the audience. Throughout the evening visitors were invited to text or write down questions for the panel to speak to.
All speakers and panelists agreed that although there are valuable services and supports available throughout the county, there is still much that is lacking.
Work must be done to make the present mental health care system better navigable in order to prevent those requiring help, especially those in immediate need, from falling through the cracks.
An ongoing theme of Speak Loud was moving forward from tragedy to inspire positive change and bring about learning, growth, understanding and more conversation. A shared vision of the future was making Huron County’s mental health and addiction support system a stronger, more unified, open and accessible force. A goal that was already achieved? Speak Loud got us talking.
Huron Perth Centre, www.hpcentre.on.ca
Choices for Change, choicesforchange.ca
Tanner Steffler Foundation, www.tannerstefflerfoundation.com