Monday night, Winkler Arts and Culture was the setting for the launch of Mental Health Awareness Week. The evening was a joint effort between Pembina Valley Local Immigration Partnership and Eden Foundation. 

Eden Foundation's Director of Development Jayme Giesbrecht shared why this week is so important. 

"Tonight (Monday), we kicked off Mental Health Awareness Week, an initiative started by the Canadian Mental Health Association in 1951. We need to do things locally to raise awareness for mental health. So at Eden Foundation, we felt like that is a place where we can step in, in the community and make sure that there are things held during this awareness week that people can come to, that are completely free, and raise awareness for mental health in many aspects." 

Winkler's Zahid Zehri and Shepherd Chiwandire and Morden's Yevgeniya Tatarenko shared their moving stories of coming to Canada from Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Ukraine. 

"They all have different stories, but yet we found similarities in each, and that was they really put a focus on serving others as a way to boost their own mental health. It was pretty powerful to hear, and although we had a humble crowd here tonight, I know that in the future I have three people willing to share their stories of being a newcomer in Canada, what that's like, the mental health hurdles they've overcome, and I really think we should continue to put a focus on sharing these stories." 

Eden Foundation's Director of Development Jayme GiesbrechtEden Foundation's Director of Development Jayme Giesbrecht

Giesbrecht noted there is power in sharing your story with others. 

"One of the big things we hear when mental health comes up is there is a stigma surrounding it, meaning that if you do share you have mental illness or mental health struggles, people will leave them out of things, treat them differently. So, when we talk about sharing your story, the hashtag and the theme this year is actually "#mystory." For all of us, we all have mental health, whether that be sometimes negative, sometimes positive, not all of us have mental illness, but we all have mental health." 

She added what can happen when these stories are shared. 

"When we take some time to listen to each other's stories and be bold to share, even pieces of your story, or things that you do to improve your mental health, or struggles that you've come through or are currently in, that's when we start erasing the stigma, and making it okay to share your story, and treat each other as though it's alright if you're struggling with depression, your anxiety. We will still include you in our activities. You're still a valuable part of the community, and you'll get more support from each other because we'll now have empathy by hearing each other's stories." 

Tuesday night was Eden Mental Health Night featuring Community Mental Health Worker Cheryl Dyck, Recovery of Hope Counsellor Andrea Dyck, and Music Therapist Joel Klassen. 

Still to come at Winkler Arts and Culture, Mental Health ROCKS Paint Night Wednesday evening, author and life coach Anita Froese Thursday night and Fire Chief Richard Paetzold and Palliative Care Nurse Blake Derksen will share their stories Friday night. More details can be found on the Eden Mental Health social media.