PORT HAWKESBURY: Surrounded by the glowing candles of over 70 friends and supporters on a chilly Saturday evening on Reeves Street, SAERC student Mackenzie Chisholm recalled her mother’s struggle with depression and the impact this reality has had on her family over the past two years.
“She was sad all the time, she didn’t really want to get out of bed – she had a lot of ‘off’ days,” Chisholm told the “Shine a Light on Mental Health” audience gathered just outside the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.
“I had to convince her to go out to the grocery store and meet with her friends. That, for her, was a very big step, and… it was a life-changing thing knowing that I was going to have to help my mom do normal-life things that I can do by myself.”
Saturday’s event was part of a national series of candlelight ceremonies held by the Girl Guides of Canada to tie into the launch of the organization’s “Mighty Minds” program. This initiative will provide education and support services regarding mental health issues faced by girls and young women.
“One-third of girls keep mental health concerns to themselves,” said Nova Scotia Girl Guides deputy provincial commissioner Elizabeth Buffet.
“Almost one in five young people live with mental health disorders, and only one in five of the children in Canada who need mental health services ever receive professional help. “So that puts it at 3.2 million youth aged 12 to 19 that are at risk of developing depression and other mental health disorders. And girls, as we know, consistently report more negative emotional health than boys.”
With this in mind, the Cairdeus District Girl Guides and the Strait Area Women’s Centre, who co-sponsored this past weekend’s “Shine a Light on Mental Health” event, are hoping to provide the early education and support on mental health issues that will enable a new generation of young women to deal with these issues head-on.
“There are lots of resources here in Cape Breton,” said Cairdeus District Commissioner Lesa Doucette-McHugh, the evening’s MC.
“We’re a really strong community.”
According to Newtown native Chloe Fox, who shared her personal struggle with anxiety and depression with those in attendance Saturday night, that sense of community begins with the support of family and friends.
“There are days when my mom, dad and friends have to help me find my motivation to face the day,” said Fox, a SAERC graduate now attending the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Strait Area Campus.
“I cannot thank them enough, because here I am this evening, standing in front of all of you, not afraid or ashamed to tell you my story.”
To that end, Fox praised Saturday’s event organizers for giving her, Chisholm and others the chance to bring their mental health experiences out of the darkness.
“Together, we are breaking the silence and ending the stigma often associated with mental health and illness,” Fox declared.
“Let’s keep the conversation going beyond tonight, and ‘Shine a Light’ to continue to build positive mental health for girls and everyone.”