A Mental Health Initiative for Marystown
Chair of the Recreation Committee, Loretta Lewis describes a new approach to mental health awareness
As the principal of Keyin College in Burin, Loretta Lewis has seen mental health issues negatively affecting student’s lives.
“Students regularly experience anxiety disorders or breakdowns. It’s so common. Just about each week we have two to three students visiting walkin clinics to deal with mental health challenges.”
She said exams can be a source of much stress, many students don’t know where to turn for help or how to cope.
“That’s when depression and isolation set in.”
As chair of Marystown’s recreation committee, Lewis believes that striking a subcommittee to advance mental health awareness will help maintain the well-being of the community as a whole. “We’re seeing too many suicides on the Burin Peninsula. Too many youth, their coping skills are not developed. As a society we have to provide resources so people know where to get help.”
Lewis maintains people need a space where they can feel free to discuss what they are going through openly. She proposes a physical room with a warm inviting environment that promotes relaxation and discussion. She envisions it filled with books, board games and musical instruments. Soft lighting is important and so is minimizing distractions. Lewis wants to create a place where people can relax, talk and connect with other people.
“It’s nice for these folks to have another outlet or comfort zone, a place where no-one feels intimidated, no-one feels embarrassed,
I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t talk about it.
guilty or shamed for openly discussing what they are going through.”
Lewis sees organizations like the YMCA, the college or The Merge as possibly being a good fit to provide the space.
Lunch hour programs, focusing on both the body and the soul, involving walks with friends, listening to music or playing it, yoga, and meditation sessions are other ideas Lewis would like to explore. “The more activity people engage in, the healthier they will become, ” she explained.
The key, said Lewis, “is to promote different activities, to engage people more one-on-one. To look at finding ways to help people believe in themselves and to build a buddy system for support so people feel comfortable chatting with someone.” She also advocates checking in with people who might otherwise slip off the radar.
In an effort to include all age groups, Lewis invited 19-yearold Keyin College student Jimmy Bonnell to become involved with the sub-committee.
Bonnell started a mental health group in his school after dealing with several traumatic experiences when he was younger, including being on suicide watch twice. Bonnell understands the critical need to provide an environment where people feel safe to discuss anything they are going through.
“People are suffering like I suffered, feeling alone. I want people to talk about it and not hide in a room like I did. I want them to feel comfortable. It’s life-saving, talking about it. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t talk about it.”
Lewis outlined the next steps for her committee are to “strike the sub-committee, come up with a creative name for it, develop a social media page, develop workshops, and reach out to different groups offering mental health services to spread the word.” She also plans to produce informational brochures and marketing materials.
“Word is already getting out,” Lewis added. “Some wonderful people are coming forward to help. It’s so exciting.”