Nompumelelo Moyo (LJI)
We all know a person or family struggling with mental health issues but Caren Mellow has a front row view having worked as a psychiatric nurse for years and currently working as a nurse-educator at Access Riverside.
She has witnessed the devastating impact mental illness has had on the families and communities and so for the past 10 years she been doing her best to bring awareness on the issue through an annual mental health walk.
For years mental health issues have been on the back burners, however the restrictions, uncertainty and anxiety brought about by the pandemic triggered more talk and focus on the issue of mental health prompting more organizations to address and do more about the condition.
Canada Mental Health Association found that Black people were six times likely to be affected by mental health issues as opposed to the general population due to factors such as discrimination and racism. The shortage of Black therapists and high cost of services have made it challenging for them to access the support they need.
According to Mental Health Canada, 1 in 5 people will experience mental health problem or illness, in addition it is predicted that most of us will have a mental health concern by the age of 40 which is two times as many as those with heart disease or Type 2 diabetes.
However, there is still stigma attached to mental health. Statistics show that 40% of parents said they would not tell anyone if their child had mental health issues and 60% said they would not seek help for fear of being labelled.
“I have seen the impact and havoc that mental illness creates with regards to family, friends, and the community, and I cherish every experience in my tenacious effort to make a difference in people lives,” says Mellow.
That’s why she wanted to bring this conversation to the table. After being approached by her school to come up with a cause they could support she immediately took the opportunity to bring awareness on mental illness.
After receiving the green light on this initiative Mellow has never looked back. Despite the disruption of COVID two years ago, Mellow was not detoured instead she took the chance to broaden her reach by starting the Mental Health Awareness Virtual Walk that had people from different parts of the world participate in this movement.
Since then more and more people have joined her with students, school staff, communities getting involved. This year will be the biggest walk since starting with 7 schools aside from the community and other individuals participating.
“My hope is that one day, all schools across Canada will take this initiative and take a stance on mental illness and continue the fight to crush the stigma,” says Mellow.
Mellow has received great honors for this initiative, including national recognition by Centre for Addiction and Mental Health(CAMH) as a difference maker for Canada 150th birthday. Currently there are no sponsors for this walk, the school provides walks on Wednesday and they give donations to communities working with people affected by mental health issues.
ºTo show your support for this great initiative join Mellow on May 24 for the walk starting at 64 Av.Cleghorn, Saint Lambert.