February 18th, 2019

AHS, CMHA spreading the word about mental health in Alberta

By Mabell, Dave on October 2, 2018.

Chris Windle, AHS addiction prevention and mental health promotion facilitator, adds a message to a whiteboard at the ÒCoffee and ConversationsÓ table Monday at Lethbridge College as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald


Some Lethbridge residents may find more than coffee and conversation when they take a break this week.

They’ll also be invited to learn more about mental illness – and the myths and misunderstandings around it. Alberta Health Services staff have linked with the Canadian Mental Health Association to spread the word across the province.

They’ll be sitting down this afternoon and Thursday at Bread Milk and Honey – one of a number of supportive businesses across the province – to open that discussion. They’re planning to visit the restaurant, 427 5 St. S., from 1 to 3 p.m. and then again on Thursday.

“We want to create more conversations, and get more people talking about it,” said Katie Whieler, as she met students Monday at Lethbridge College.

Health sciences students at the college and University of Lethbridge are fully briefed on mental health and illness issues, but Whieler says many other Albertans still believe some of the myths and stories they’ve heard about mental illness.

They fear that people who become mentally ill will be violent or unpredictable, for example. Or that it’s a situation that can be overcome through determination and will power.

“That creates a stigma,” she says, and people are reluctant to step forward to help.

The timing of the college visit comes when many students may already be feeling anxious about their courses, she noted.

“About this time, students are starting to feel a little more weight on their shoulders.”

But health services staff at the college are there to help.

“Young people have more access to information” these days, and they’re more likely to look for the help they need.

Some will say they’re “asking for a friend,” she adds.

Then they’ll apply the information to their own situation.

“But there’s still a lot of misinformation out there.”

Students in Alberta high schools are becoming better informed as well, she said.

Now Whieler is looking forward to discussion this week with members of the public.

“It’s normal to have a conversation when you’re having coffee,” she says.

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