Opening up about mental health

Keynote speaker, Robb Nash, is joined on stage by panelists, Dr. Lisa Monkman, Sean Miller and Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud in a recent community conversation about mental health, addiction and healing.

A community came together recently to share in an open dialogue about topics that are often difficult to discuss.

The Winnipeg Foundation, in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, held the first Vital Conversation, as part of Winnipeg’s Vital Signs.

The gathering on Jan. 23, 2017, focused on mental health, addiction and healing, and was held at the University of Winnipeg Atrium.

The conference started a conversation about the struggles and stigmas surrounding the topic of mental health in Winnipeg. Some participants shared their own personal experiences during round table discussions, while others shared information on how to help those who are suffering with a mental illness.

Keynote speaker Robb Nash delivered a hard-hitting presentation about his experiences working with Canadian youth across the country.

When Nash was 17 years old, he was in a car accident where first responders pronounced him dead.

Since his death defying experience and recovery, he travels across Canada delivering inspiring speeches to high school youth. He reminds them to take control of their lives, and realize their lives are worth living.

On our tour we’ve been handed 671 suicide notes. When I went through my mental illness, and when I had the suicidal thoughts, I was by myself,” said Nash.

“When I see something like this – coming together and making a community aware and bringing together resources, we can make a bigger impact and make things more significant. “

L-R: Dr. Lisa Monkman, Sean Miller, and Tess Blaikie Whitecloud listen to keynote speaker Robb Nash talking about how to ask more critical questions when addressing issues around mental health and addictions.

Dr. Lisa Monkman said during a panel discussion that mental illness is often very difficult to treat because it is so hard to describe. She believes the most influential factor to mental illness is chronic stress.

Peoples resilience will often pull them through difficult times, but sometimes it doesn’t,” said Monkman. “That’s part of the most difficult thing about working in the mental health field. That sometimes you don’t have all the answers. People don’t develop addictions if they aren’t stressed extremely in some way. We as a society have to work on improving our stress levels.”

Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud also believes stress levels are a large reason why so many people are suffering with mental illness. But, she hopes for safe spaces and proper health care for those who need it most.

We all have mental health, we need to prioritize it,” said Blaikie Whitecloud. “But, we also need to build a society that gives us a space to cope with the high levels of stress, but also the space to reduce that stigma around mental illness.”

Winnipeg’s Vital Signs Report will be released in October 2017.

Winnipeg’s Vital Signs® initiative, a project of The Winnipeg Foundation, is a check-up on the vitality of our community. As part of Vital Signs®, the first in a series of Vital Conversations was held on Mon. Jan. 23, focused on Mental Health, Addictions and Healing. 

For more stories on this event, go to “Digging deep on mental health and well-being“. You can also view a full recording or a recap of highlights from the discussion by visiting The Winnipeg Foundation’s Facebook page.

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