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Let's talk about mental health

Vanderhoof Omineca Express - 2/16/2019

Being aware of one's mental health is important and the Jordan Marshall Memorial Hockey Tournament aims to remove the stigma attached to it.

Jackie Marshall, branch manager of Hub International Insurance Brokers in Fort St. James, lost her son Jordan Marshall to suicide in 2017, and that encouraged her to create an event to raise mental health awareness within the community.

"When we had the tournament last year because I was the coordinator and everybody knew me - I had so many people on an individual level come up to me to tell me their problems and how they are suffering. Everybody was really grateful and supportive that we organized the event," said Marshall.

This year the hockey tournament will be held Feb. 22 to Feb 24 at the Fort Forum Arena. But apart from the tournament, Marshall said, there will be a speaker from the Canadian Mental Health Association doing various sessions on Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 with students and businesses in the community.

On Feb 21. there will be a presentation by the speaker at Nak'albun Elementary School followed by a presentation at David Hoy Elementary School. The same night, there is a presentation at the Community Centre which is open to the community. On Friday, Feb. 22 there will be two sessions at Fort St. James Secondary School, followed by a session for businesses between 2 pm - 4 pm at the Community Centre.

"A lot of people are embarrassed to talk about mental health and they try to keep it inside. Whereas if you had any other illness - cancer or heart disease or any other kind of illness you don't seem to be as shy to talk about it. But mental illness, people think 'oh, I should be able to shake it off.' But if you talk to anybody that has suffered any kind of mental illness they will tell you that it is not something you can shake off," said Marshall.

All the proceeds from the tournament, after the tournament fees is taken care of will be to bring more sessions around mental health awareness to the District, she said.

Conversations around mental health are more common during February because of Bell advertising around mental health awareness, she said, noting that events can happen anytime of the year and conversations shouldn't just be restricted to this month.

"So I think it is essential to have a continuous flow of information throughout the year to just keep people abreast and informed. You might meet somebody that is experiencing something and might need a hand mentally. And you may not be thinking about it because it is not mental health week so you may totally be lost at what you could do," Marshall said.

Marshall wasn't going to host the tournament this year but she said the community rallied for them and because of that they decided to host it annually. Local businesses have supported the tournament financially, she said, noting they wouldn't have been able to organize the tournament without the continuous support from everyone in Fort. St James.

There are 8 teams participating in the tournament - 7 men's teams and one women's team who will play a round robin. Vanderhoof, Fort St. James and Burns Lake are sending in their local teams but there are players coming from Prince George as well. The tournament is an open, non-contact and friendly.

Meanwhile, Marshall agrees that there are more resources available in the city in comparison to smaller communities. Sometimes a person who needs assistance needs it right away otherwise there are chances they might take drastic steps. she said.

"So for instance we had somebody I knew that needed some help and they called the 1-800 number. Everyone gives out these 1-800 numbers and he was told that somebody will call you back on Monday. Well you need people at the moment. Not when it is convenient for you to call back…"

"I think it is needed to create more awareness to get those resources anywhere regardless of where you are located. That and I think just having more sessions available in the community for people to get help - they might not need it that day but at least they will know where to get help," Marshall said.

To bring down the walls of the stigma attached to mental health, easy access to resources and open conversations around mental health are necessary, she said. Vanderhoof has Nechako Valley Community Services which is a counselling outlet but they don't have a 24 x 7 staffing.

"You don't expect someone to have an episode 9 - 5, Monday to Friday. It's could be weird hours as well… You know how you have Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) you almost need a mental health anonymous where people can go and talk - 'you know I am really struggling and I just need to talk without any judgment' and you know that the conversation will stay in the room," Marshall said.

She said she hopes this tournament makes people more aware about mental health and gets people to continue the much-needed conversation.

"For each person dealing with mental health is different. Some people suffer worse than others. It's not something that you can just take a pill and you are better," she explained.

Aman Parhar
Editor, Vanderhoof Omineca Express

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