October 4 to 10 was Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW).  Representatives, volunteers, and clients of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Champlain East and the Canadian Alliance on Mental Health and Mental Illness (CAMHIMI) held a small parade in Hawkesbury on Friday, October 9 to get the attention of the community.

The line of decorated cars left the CMHA building on Nelson Street and paraded through town on McGill, Main, and John streets.

The theme of MIAW 2020 was “There’s no health without mental health.”

According to CMHA Mental Health Promotor Angele D’Alessio, this was the 16th annual awareness event for MIAW in Hawkesbury, which always takes place on the Friday of the week.  She said that this year, awareness is even more crucial due to the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the mental health of many people.  D’Alessio said that 53 per cent of Ontario residents have experienced mental health issues during the pandemic.

“I’ve seen a huge increase in the demand on how to manage anxiety and stress,” D’Alessio said.

She added that people who have never struggled before are contacting the agency for assistance.

Resource Centre Facilitator Caroline Grenier said that mental health workers are seeing more challenges from their clients.

D’Alessio highlighted that CMHA Ontario recently received a surge in funding from the Ontario government for its online Bounce Back program that is designed to assist people with low-level anxiety and stress.  Up to $12 million has been provided for the free, no-wait service across the province.

D’Alessio explained that Bounce Back uses the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach to therapy.  It provides phone coaching and workbooks that are mailed to client’s homes.

“Think of it as a personal trainer,” she said.

The service is offered in English and French.  For information, go to bouncebackontario.ca .

CMHA volunteer Stephen Douris drove from North Lancaster to participate in the Hawkesbury event.  He said he has anxiety and depression and has volunteered for the CMHA for more than three years.

“We just have to make people aware they’re not alone,” he said.

According to CAMHMI, 500,000 Canadians miss work each week due to mental health issues.