Open forum looks at role township can play when it comes to mental health issues

KENILWORTH – Wellington North council spent considerable time discussing the issue of mental health on Jan. 27.

This month’s topic was “Mental Health… what role can we play in keeping our community members healthy?”

Mayor Andy Lennox asked what residents could do to foster discussion and prevent tragedies like suicide.

“It’s a difficult topic, but I thought it was good for us to have this conversation,” said Lennox, who added, “community members look to us as leaders.”

Councillor Steve McCabe said he would find it difficult to believe anyone has not been touched by or struggled with the issue of mental health or suicide of a family member, friend or someone they know.

“It is really incumbent upon us to take action,” said McCabe. “While we cannot fund programs, we can certainly create the exposure the issue needs and talk about it openly and hopefully remove some of the stigma surrounding mental health.”

He noted a recent presentation to council by a member of Here4Hope “was an eye opener for me.”

McCabe said this is a community which rallies behind its people. He pointed to the efforts of Myrna Hutchison and Get In Touch For Hutch.

He noted members of council and staff also participate in functions supporting mental health.

“People should be able to call here and be able to find out where to call to get help.”

Councillor Dan Yake agreed that Here4Hope offered a powerful presentation.

“Every time we turn on the television, read a newspaper or view social media we hear about mental health issues and other tragedies,” said Yake. “I’m not really sure what our role is; if anything we, as a council should participate in local events such as Get In Touch For Hutch.”

Yake said the event originated from a tragedy, but those involved have spent years getting the message out to the community.

“We are part of this community and we need to support the people trying to make a difference.”

McCabe said, “We all have to recognize the effect on our first responders as well.”

Councillor Lisa Hern said she continues to struggle with how to get the support and information to the people who need it most.

Hern agreed there are available programs, but many residents feel isolated, ranging from seniors to those working in farm environments.

Lennox said, “I don’t think we have the solution. It is more about how we can support the people in the community.”

He said more and more employers are taking time and offering training on how to talk to people and recognize signs of potential issues.

Lennox said he would support both staff and council members getting the option of training.

“Through my life I’ve been touched by the issues – both suicide and mental health,” said Lennox.

He said those left behind  ask themselves if they somehow missed the signs or could have done something.

Lennox said he believed the Here4Hope program co-sponsored by the county offers outreach, “But can we as a municipality enhance that reach?”

McCabe noted a number of agricultural organizations are promoting programs in relation to mental health.

Lennox added, “the more people we have in our community who are better equipped on this difficult topic, the better chance there is of someone being able to catch (and deal with) a bad situation.”

Yake asked whether training could be arranged for council and staff, noting, “I think we need to show our commitment, support and that we are willing to address this issue.”

McCabe also asked about the potential of workshops for the public – “an open forum for the whole community.”

Lennox said building awareness and helping people find the assistance they need are what the effort is all about.

“People who are suffering don’t always recognize the signs. Sometimes it takes another person to draw them out,” he added.

North Wellington Community News