Mental Health is #UNIGNORABLE
United Way is taking action to support community members
with mental health issues
Many of us regularly make choices about food and exercise in order to maintain our physical health, but it is easy to forget that taking care of our mental health is just as important. With 1 in 5 Canadians personally experiencing a mental health problem or illness in their lifetime, this issue is not to be ignored. That translates to roughly 260,000 local people.
Cindy McDonald, an employee with United Way, feels like she has a very fortunate life. However this mother of two did not always feel so lucky. After giving birth to her second child, she began to feel depressed and withdrawn from friends and family. Symptoms like this can often be brushed off as the “baby blues.” After a near life altering decision, McDonald was eventually diagnosed with severe postpartum depression.
“Mental health was treated like a taboo topic 20 years ago,” McDonald recalls. She describes the lack of understanding as a serious roadblock to her health. Over time her untreated depression got so severe that she became suicidal.
When Cindy found herself with a knife in her hand determined to end her life, she received professional intervention that saved her.
After successfully completing a patient care program at one of the local hospitals, McDonald wanted to channel her experiences with mental health to help others. She spent time volunteering at the Distress Line in Edmonton, coaching and listening to people in their time of despair. McDonald remembers that the number of calls was very demanding and that many people just needed someone to listen.
United Way supports mental health programs that provide a safety net for individuals in their time of need such as the Distress Line, a 24/7 resource for people who are feeling overwhelmed, experiencing abuse or suicidal thoughts. The distress line receives approximately 1,300 calls a month and 30 per cent of callers are in crisis. If you or someone you know is in need of help, please dial 780-482-HELP to access the line.
Additionally, United Way helps fund various counselling services with local agencies which are accessible through 211 and is a partner in the Community Mental Health Action Plan. The goal of the plan is to maximize collective resources, leverage opportunities to respond to existing gaps in service, and foster innovative approaches to integrate supports and services.
Because of programs and initiatives like these, people in need are being heard and connected with the supports that can help them overcome their challenges. By allowing for open conversation around a once unapproachable topic, United Way and its supporters are helping to create an inclusive culture to let others know they are not alone.
“I’m grateful that I got a chance to be a healthy mom for my kids,” says Cindy. “And with the supportive resources available now, I know more people will continue to get the help they need.”