Lisa Jarman, a volunteer at the Mental Health Education Resource Centre of Manitoba, sums up the stigma that is often felt by so many Manitobans who struggle with a mental illness and the role the resource centre played in her road to recovery.
"It was crucial for me to break the silence rather than the silence break me."
Jarman was first diagnosed with depression in 1987 and since then has experienced other mental-health issues, including post-traumatic anxiety. The mother of three and grandmother of five first learned of the Mental Health Resource Centre of Manitoba in 2005 after her husband of 14 years died. She was participating in a program put on by the Canadian Mental Health Association when they took a field trip to the resource centre.
"I thought 'Wow: This place is phenomenal!' " says Jarman. "It helped me learn more about what was going on with myself and deal with the issue of stigma. At the resource centre they see people as people first, whereas before, I felt like people saw my mental-health issues first, before they saw me as a person."
Statistics show mental illness indirectly affects all Manitobans at some point, either through a family member, friend or work colleague.
One in three Canadians will personally experience a mental-health illness in their lifetime, the Canadian Mental Health Association says.
Jarman returned to the resource centre 18 months ago, wanting to give back to the place that helped her so much. She now volunteers, helping run the resource library Wednesday evenings.
"I found my passion in life," she says about her volunteer work. "My big-time dream now is to be a librarian working in the field of mental health."
The Mental Health Education Resource Centre is a provincial resource promoting knowledge exchange. It's operated by the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society. The centre contains a large lending library with many videos, DVDs, audiobooks, training kits, newsletters, brochures and fact sheets on mental-health and related issues -- everything from post-partum depression to workplace stress, schizophrenia to healthy relationships.
"I think when people come to the resource centre and they see that the staff and volunteers are people who have either lived with a mental illness or have family members who have, it gives them a little hope, that they are not alone," says Donna Hornick, resource co-ordinator at the centre. "Your brain can get sick, too, just like your heart or your kidneys.
"We just hope that through education, we combat stigma."
Helping others improve their mental health is another reward Jarman gets from volunteering at the resource centre.
"It's in my heart to help people living with mental-health issues," says Jarman. "Without mental health, there is no health. It feels really good when someone comes into the resource centre and you are able to help them, and they leave with a smile on their face."
"At the end of the day, I like to look in the mirror and ask myself, 'Did I help somebody today?' and be able to say, 'Yes I did.' "
In an effort to reach youth -- an estimated 25 per cent of teens struggle with a mental-health issue during their adolescence -- the centre recently launched a digital lending library (www.mherc.mb.ca).
The centre is available to all Manitobans including school counsellors, teachers, students, parents, grandparents as well as all mental-health professionals. Materials can be checked out for free, either online or by visiting the centre, which is at 4 Fort St.
If you know a special volunteer, please contact Carolyn Shimmin-Bazak at: firstname.lastname@example.org.