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Mental health in the public eye
Awareness day activities help bring subject out of taboo

Shawn Giilck
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 16, 2013

Everyone can use a mental health day sometimes.

NNSL photo/graphic

Andrea Brown tries out a little stress-relieving craftwork during the Mental Health Awareness Day at the Aurora Campus May 8. - Shawn Giilck/NNSL photo

That was part of the message of a Mental Health Awareness Day held at the Aurora College Campus May 8. Sponsored by several community organizations, including Healthy Families and Inuvik Counselling Services, the event stood as a reminder that discussing mental health shouldn't be a topic not fit for general consumption.

The event was held in the campus's "event plaza" in three different tents. Some "comfort food" was on hand as well, including a muskox-barley soup concoction that wasn't destined to last long.

"Today we have different activities happening," organizer Patricia Davison said. "It's Mental Health Week and of course it's always good to take care of your mental health. So we thought, what better way than to have a campfire and share some food and swap some stories?"

Attendance at the event was somewhat light in the mid-afternoon, but more were expected as they day wore on.

Some of the activities was craftwork designed to relieve stress, while others measured participants' stress levels, Andrea Brown, the clinical supervisor for community counselling in Inuvik, said.

She usually brings "stress dots" to such events but they were missing this year. She explained the concept is basically a bio-feedback loop where the dots change colour as body temperate rises and falls. Those changes are directly linked to stress levels, she explained.

Most of the activities at the awareness event were relaxation techniques, she said.

"I think mental health is an issue all over," Davison added. "It's important and I think there's always reasons why people's mental health doesn't feel as strong and it's important to have that self-awareness to be able to take care of yourself and make sure you do things to strengthen it."

Davison said that while the issue has made tremendous strides in being something that can be discussed openly and in public, there's still a stigma to it.

"Certainly celebrities like Clara Hughes stepping forward and speaking about it have helped. Like any other issue, the more we talk about it the more it becomes talkable. And the more we realize that we're not the only ones, that there are other people out there with other kinds of issues.

"Once we start talking about it the easier is it to step forward and say, 'What can we do about it?'"

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