The Dufferin Agricultural Society donated $10,000 to the Mood Disorders of Manitoba Association last week. The money was raised through the first annual Truck Pull for Mental Health at this summer’s Carman Country Fair, and the DAS wants to see these dollars grow into meaningful local initiatives that support the mental health needs of residents in Carman and the surrounding area. Pictured, left to right: DAS Secretary Jodi Winkler, DAS President John Goff, Mood Disorders representatives and DAS Truck Pull organizers Tyler Russell and Shawn McCutcheon. (EMILY DISTEFANO)
How do you start a grassroots mental health movement and make a real difference in a small community?
That’s the question a group of Carman residents are wrestling with right now.
In July, the Dufferin Agricultural Society held it’s first annual Truck Pull for Mental Health at the Carman Country Fair. The event was designed to draw both crowds and funds for community mental health resources, and now organizers are hoping it is just the beginning of a local movement to raise awareness about mental health and connect people with the resources they need.
The first-time fundraiser pulled in $10,000, which was donated last week to Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba (MDAM),
Members of the DAS met with representatives from Mood Disorders on Friday to discuss options for where this money will be going - and how to make sure it helps the people who really need it.
“You have no idea what this means,” said Mood Disorders Director of Development Charlotte Sytnyk when she saw the cheque.
When Stynyk started working with the organization nine years ago, it helped 13,000 Manitobans. She said 90 per cent of the core funding came from the Manitoba government at that point. Last year, the group helped 95,000 Manitobans and government funding covered 35 per cent of their budget.
Stynyk first got involved with the group when her daughter, who was bullied in middle school, started self-medicating and self-harming. She said the peer support offered by MDAM was vital to their family during her daughter’s recovery.
“You feel like an island when you’re in it,” she said. “You don’t think anyone else can help, no one else has ever been through this and you don’t know what to do.”
Mood disorders can - and do - affect people of all ages and locations. And while there has been progress in decreasing the stigma attached to mental illness, there remains much work to be done.
Stynyk said that currently, the highest rate of suicide in Manitoba is among retirement-age men - which is not necessarily what one would expect.
“It’s scary numbers,” she said.
And she noted that many people rely on the medical system, but it can take 18 months to see a psychiatrist in Manitoba right now.
What Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba offers
The Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba is a non-profit organization. It was founded by Gwen Finnen in 1983 as the Society for Depression & Manic Depression of Manitoba.
Today, MDAM operates throughout the province, offering support for those affected by mood disorders, their friends, families, caregivers and supporters.
“It’s peer-support driven,” said Stynyk. “So when a person is struggling with a mental health issue or a family is trying to figure out how to navigate the mental health system, Mood Disorders is a really good fit for the individual.”
The organization offers a number of resources for issues including - but not limited to - depression, addictions, bi-polar disorder, postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder, bullying and more. The group also offers support for those who live with, care for and/or love people dealing with mental illnesses.
Resources include support groups (including one in Carman), cognitive courses, youth programming and help navigating the other resources and systems that are available in the province.
In Carman, MDAM currently hosts a support group that meets on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month.
Sytnyk noted that people can attend support groups in a different community if they are concerned about anonymity.
And anyone can call the organization and be connected with someone in the province who has lived experience of the whatever mood disorder you or your loved one is dealing with.
What could be offered?
The DAS is hoping to partner with MDAM to offer education, programming and support right here in Carman. DAS members noted during the meeting that those who are struggling might feel more comfortable contacting someone they know in the community, rather than navigating the system in Winnipeg.
MDAM will likely start by offering information sessions for the community, both to share what they can offer and to find out what is really needed most in this area.
“We tailor it to what the demand of the area is,” Stynyk said.
From there, different programming (more support groups? courses? seminars?) could be made available in town.
For now, you can find more information online at www.mooddisordersmanitoba.ca or contact MDAM by phone at 204-786-0987 or 1-800-263-1460.
If you would like to speak with the coordinator the Central Region, contact Barbara Bogart at email@example.com or 204-330-7826.