A 2019 calendar containing the raw, personal stories of 11 individuals and one family who have experienced the often devastating impact of mental illness will help pay it forward for local youth.
The fundraising calendar project is a first for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) York South Simcoe, produced in partnership with the Community Fundraiser, an organization that creates calendar fundraising programs. It features a glimpse into the lives of clients, staff, volunteers and donors who have shown resilience and strength in the face of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and bulimia.
Proceeds from the calendar sales will go toward improving the province’s first and community-funded mobile youth walk-in clinic, known as MOBYSS (Mobile York South Simcoe) that travels around York Region and South Simcoe, anchoring at schools or wherever youth are likely to be.
For example, the mobile clinic bus was on site Nov. 19 at Newmarket’s Huron Heights Secondary School, where students could access free services about birth control, STDs, pregnancy, feelings of anxiousness or depression, coping with drugs and alcohol, or even a sore throat.
A health care team consisting of a nurse practitioner, specialized youth mental health worker and a peer support specialist were on hand from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. to listen and offer help and support.
In its first year of service in 2015, MOBYSS supported more than 3,000 young people, said Danielle Luciano, CMHA York South Simcoe’s marketing, corporate and community partnership coordinator.
MOBYSS operates seven days a week, and the calendar fundraiser will help to meet an increasing demand for the service throughout York Region and South Simcoe, Luciano said.
“We have a tonne of advocates, and so many people involved in our organization willing to share their stories to raise awareness and eradicate stigma. Their stories are powerful,” Luciano added. “We hope to get the message out to treat your mental health the same way as your physical health.”
A flip through the calendar shows stories of struggle and how local CMHA programs paved the road to recovery, of people whose families were affected by mental health that sparked innovative treatment programs and, how one family’s heartbreaking loss led to raising $90,000 for CMHA’s Ride Don’t Hide June event.
The month of April story is dedicated to Newmarket's Jake Eliopoulos who, at 21, died by suicide. Jake had what seemed to be the brightest of futures. He was a Toronto Blue Jays draft pick with a personality that lit up the world. But Jake had severe depression. Despite seeking support through outpatient programs, Jake died by suicide on April 29, 2013, his family writes.
Mom Lea, dad Jim and siblings Derek and Zoe, and Jake’s best friend, Grant Grzywniak, formed Team Jake. Together, they have raised more than $90,000 since 2013 for Ride Don’t Hide, now one of the largest mental health bike ride fundraisers nationally.
“We are people in a club that nobody wants to be a part of, but once you are in it, the question becomes what are you going to do about it?” Jake’s father, Jim, said.
“It was a place for us to put our energy to start to make a difference around mental health, and I see how it’s helping people and that’s why I continue to ride,” mom Lea said.
January’s story comes from Lindsay Thompson, who was diagnosed at 17 with schizophrenia.
“I have experienced many periods of hospitalization. Getting better has been a slow process, but I have had my amazing family behind me and I have learned a lot about myself along the way,” Thompson wrote. “Finding the confidence to do what it takes to continue moving forward has been the key to my recovery. I am doing things I never thought I could do, like volunteer in the community.”
Thompson is part of CMHA York South Simcoe’s Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) program, designed to provide comprehensive, community-based psychiatric treatment, rehabilitation and support to people with serious and persistent mental illness.
CMHA York South Simcoe encourages you to help break the silence around mental illness, as well as reduce stigma and inspire crucial conversations about mental health and the importance of treating mental health as we do physical health. Calendars are $20.
To purchase a calendar online, please visit here.
To purchase in person, contact Danielle Luciano by email email@example.com or call 905-841-3977, ext. 2220.