The Canadian Mental Health Association has been raising awareness and bringing supports to serve the Vernon community since 1959.
It was first established to assist the psychiatric unit at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital 60 years ago. There, CMHA funded treatments and support plans to patients while providing educational resources to medical practitioners and local agencies.
Over six decades, however, CMHA’s reach has expanded and social enterprises were established along side employment and volunteer opportunities. CMHA also moved into the housing business with its supportive and affordable housing units serving individuals living with mental illnesses.
“The founding members stood up to stigma and showed their resilience as role models in the community. They opened hearts, changed minds, and broke down the barriers that kept mental health issues in the dark,” CMHA Vernon executive director Julia Payson said.
Last year, CMHA Vernon received $3 million in provincial funding to renovate the Albert Place facility, creating 30 more homes for seniors and families.
CMHA now operates 144 supportive housing units in Vernon providing shelter for 261 residents.
“This past year we have seen encouraging growth in the number of lives being profoundly changed,” she said.
The Interior region recorded the highest rate of youth suicide, nearly doubling the provincial rate, between 2013-18 and CMHA received more than 6,500 calls to its Crisis line—an 11 per cent increase since last year. Its Good Morning safety check-in program also saw members connect with isolated individuals more than 8,800 times.
CMHA also saw a 30 per cent uptick of meals prepared and shared through its nutrition program, which was extended to a six-day-a-week service. In total, 9,189 meals were served.
A series of Youth Community Dialogues took place in Vernon, Armstrong and Lumby providing access to mental health services in more rural areas where access is lacking. In these dialogues, CMHA focused on high youth suicide rates and the opioid crisis and addictions.
But the work is far from over.
“We are excited to create new partnerships and offer more supports to our community,” Payson said.