Today we attended a sold out Breakfast of Champions event held at the London Convention Centre in partnership with St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation. International Bestselling Author of My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward, a Memoir of Mental Illness and Hope, Mark Lukach, shared his heart wrenching experience as a caregiver during his wife Giulia’s journey with psychosis and suicidal depression. He was a powerful keynote speaker who shared his personal story as a caregiver and spoke openly about his family’s own mental health journey. This was an inspiring event that continued the conversation of mental wellness during Mental Health Week. The event raises funds to support mental health programs through St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation.
At this event, CMHA Middlesex recognized all the nominees and announced the 2019 Champion of Mental Health Award recipients. Congratulations to our winners, Sgt. Andrew Gough and Sue McLeish, Brenda Wentzell and the Family Support Group.
Our Winners Were:
Sgt. Andrew Gough (Individual Category)
Sgt. Andrew Gough, of the London Police Service has earned his nomination through his dedication of elevating the profile of mental health awareness and destigmatizing common myths. Through his brave personal storytelling and commitment towards the “Stronger than you Know” campaign, employees were inspired to step forward and seek help.
As a husband, father, military reservist, he speaks openly to new recruits in his classes at the Ontario Police College about having an operational stress injury, helping to fight stigma at an early point in their careers. His willingness to share his story with colleagues, new police officers and the public has done much to help reduce the stigma associated with mental health.
Sergeant Gough leads by example that goes well beyond his employment and into volunteering in the community. As a Team Leader, London Police Service Colour Guard and Colour Guard Commander his significant contributions are changing the direction and the way we think about mental health. He is an inspiration to everyone he meets both inside and outside of the London Police Service.
Sue McLeish, Brenda Wentzell and Family Support Program (Organization Category)
Sue McLeish, Brenda Wentzell and the Family Support Program at the London Health Sciences Centre have been nominated for their unwavering support shown to families, caregivers and people living with mental illness. It is a peer-led group offering education, resource sharing and support to families with loved ones experiencing mental illness, 24/7.
The group responds to mental health stigma with continuous advocacy, placing themselves at the centre of the integral conversations in the community and conveying a message of hope, recovery and dignity. Some of the accomplishments of Sue, Brenda and the Family Support Program includes peer-led monthly family support groups, donations of basic needs to support clients, assist family workshops, fundraising, sibling support and education and much more.
This group is an essential part of recovery from mental illness for both clients and family members. By providing, a safe space for families and caregivers to share their experience the Family Support Program has helped lift loved ones into a space of recovery and hope.
Our Nominees Were:
Dustin Carter, of the Middlesex-London Paramedic Services has a great passion and strong mandate to develop strategies and improve care and alternatives to emergency department care to meet the need of patients.
Dustin advocates to ensure individuals with mental health and addictions receive the most appropriate care, and to expand options for support. He was a major driver in the development of a Mental Health and Addictions Alternate Care Pathway. A two-phased strategy to safely divert individuals in need of crisis/emotional support to the Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Centre, or activation of the Crisis Mobile Team to receive prompt crisis support in the comfort of the patient’s home. Paramedics utilize a detailed protocol to determine the suitability of the individual for care at the Crisis Centre and seek consent to transport there when appropriate.
Additionally, he advocates for mental health training for paramedics, which can lead to a culture shift in first responders. Dustin has built relationships within the community to help make positive change in roles such as a member of the Enhanced Crisis Services Working Group, the Provincial Digital Health Care Management Working Group and more.
Dustin’s passion and determination to better mental health and addictions care has been an inspiration to those with whom he collaborates.
Brianna Jackson, a Masters student at Western University, has actively been involved in a number of initiatives focused on mental health and is dedicated to making an impactful difference through her advocacy and research.
Brianna is a past Director of the REACH Conference, a community project of Western students with the aim of introducing at-risk youth to the opportunities available through post-secondary studies and providing a unique opportunity for young people to explore their passions and enhance their self-esteem in a supportive environment. Additionally, Brianna is a Fellow of the Global MINDS program, an initiative of the Schulich School of Medicine, which involved working as part of an international team on a year-long project to develop and implement solutions to the mental health crisis in Kenya.
Lastly, Brianna is undertaking research through the PhotoSTREAM project to explore and develop recommendations and solutions to optimize mental health care for young individuals transitioning from paediatric to adult care. In addition to her research, Brianna volunteered as a trained and certified community speaker with Jack.org, and she plans to continue her research in the field of youth mental health when she begins her Ph.D.
Tandra Lepine, a mental health advocate, established an online initiative called “Talks with Tandra.” Through her Instagram and Facebook page, Tandra spreads awareness of mental health issues with her primary objective to stop the stigma.
Tandra is open with her own journey, and posts relatable and honest entries and is not afraid to address the tough subjects surrounding mental health.
In addition to sharing her own personal stories, Tandra uses her platform to promote local mental health initiatives, such as fundraising efforts to benefit To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for individuals struggling with depression, addiction and self-injury.
Lastly, Tandra uses Facebook and Instagram to post information on local crisis phone numbers and services, as well as articles to provide additional information for those struggling with their mental health.
Dr. Brenna Velker
Dr. Brenna Velker has an honors BSc (Bachelor of Science) in Biology and completed the Medical Doctor (MD)/Ph.D. program at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. As a wife and mother, Dr. Velker has been nominated in recognition of her devout commitment to her patients. Her persistent desire to support and navigate through a proper diagnosis and treatment has given her patients hope on their mental health journey.
Whether it is making a hospital visit after a full day at her clinic or offering encouragement to accomplish personal goals, Dr. Velker’s selfless and compassionate approach has had the profound power to turn lives around.
Dr. Velker is an inspirational leader committed to guiding patients towards life altering transformational changes.
CARFAX Canada (formerly known as CarProof) is a fast-growing London company that, as described by the nominator, provides a quality product and a quality employee experience. The culture at CARFAX Canada is described as second to none. Employees have concern and care for each other, push themselves to do their best and are fully supported by their employer to strive to advance in the areas of mental health education and mental health wellness.
CARFAX Canada offers their employees Mental Health First Aid training, as well as the promotion of social activities and wellness at the workplace. They are also credited for actively participating in Mental Illness Awareness Week, offering appreciation cards for colleagues to support each other, inviting guest speakers and encouraging camaraderie among their busy workplace.
In 2018, CARFAX Canada created a Zen Room; a private room where any employee can reserve it to read, meditate, relax and focus. The room is there to provide a means for employees to “get away” for a moment.
Health Zone Nurse Practitioner Led Clinic
As outlined in their mission, vision, and value statement this organization serves the population of London and Middlesex County prioritizing women and children in transition, newcomers, and those with mental health concerns; recognizing the need to provide timely, trauma-informed care.
The clinic has three locations in London, ON with a team that consists of Nurse Practitioners, Registered Nurses, Registered Dietitian, Registered Social Worker and Medical Office Assistants, each profession dedicated to providing compassionate care.
Their work has a particular focus on those living in marginalized conditions with a large percentage of their population having experienced complex trauma; most of whom have difficulty accessing traditional models of healthcare. In 2018-2019, they rostered 50 new patients, many of whom had been on the provincial waitlist for a family physician for one or more years or were newcomers to Canada.
Stressed Out Solutions
Stressed Out Solutions (SOS) is a London-based company that specializes in delivering education and consultation to workplaces with respect to mental health in the workplace and wellness initiatives. Companies who have engaged with SOS have credited the company with fostering a workplace culture that supports employees to discuss and seek help for their own mental health challenges as well as fostering inclusivity and mental health literacy.
The proactive and preventative approach that SOS advocates for in workplaces has been credited by their customers as improving their company’s productivity, customer service and also sales. Many workplaces who have utilized the services of SOS have stated that they have been very impressed to see employees from all ages and backgrounds, come together in their shared collective concern for mental wellbeing.
Western Education’s Child and Youth Development Clinic
Newly opened in October 2017, The Child and Youth Development Clinic (CYDC) is a team of passionate professionals and graduate students dedicated to improving the mental health and learning performance of children and youth (ages 3-18). Their motto is “Children first for a stronger community.”
Their services are accessible to all families regardless of income. The Child and Youth Development Clinic offers a unique holistic model that looks at the entire child and family, they believe healthy children and families mean healthy societies.
Since opening in October of 2017, they have received over 500 referrals. Their partnerships encompass four Western partnerships and ten from the community. In addition, they have trained over forty graduate students and have offered ten group intervention programs to the community.
About the Awards
The Champion of Mental Health Awards are presented by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Middlesex Branch and honour both an individual and an organization in the communities of London and Middlesex who have made a significant contribution in the following areas:
- Reducing stigma experienced by people with mental illness
- Providing support or treatment to people with mental illnesses, their families and/or caregivers
- Advocacy for issues related to mental health (including individual needs, family needs, service delivery and systemic issues)
- Advancing knowledge in the area of mental illness/health research