Brant County councillors are giving this year’s mental health awareness week a boost.
Councillors voted Feb. 23 to give organizers a $5,000 emergency grant to help deliver activities from May 3 to 9. The funding is being provided in advance of council’s usual grant process.
Coun. John Peirce noted that Brant OPP have been reporting significant increases in mental-health calls in recent months.
“This is more important now than it has ever been,” said Peirce, adding that police also have been responding to more domestic incidents.
Mayor David Bailey said mental illness is one of the fallouts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is one of my biggest concerns,” Bailey said. “I’m talking to people every day and I know there are a lot of people out there who are suffering.
“I just hope those people get the help they need and I think we should do whatever we can to help.”
Lill Petrella, of the Brant Haldimand Norfolk branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, and Christine Dragolovich, of Woodview Mental Health and Autism Services, co-chairs of mental health week, told councillors that organizations need funding to move forward with planning activities.
Petrella said participation in the week has grown steadily, with 25 agencies involved this year. The agencies cover Brantford, Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk counties and Six Nations of the Grand River, she said.
In her health promotion role at CMHA, Petrella said she was able to generate funds for mental health week through in-service training, fee for services and workshops. However, COVID-19 put a stop to that in 2020. As a result, there are no reserve funds available, she said.
“This is funding that we really need,” Petrella said. “We can’t really wait until May to get funding for this year’s activities.
“We really don’t want to cancel this year.”
Dragolovich said the week brings together families, organizations and communities to celebrate mental wellness in a fun way and to bring attention to mental health issues.
Petrella said organizers put together a successful week in 2020, using virtual activities, such as online lunch-and-learn sessions covering a range of topics.
“We plan to do that again this year,” Petrella said. “It really is a community-wide event.
“On one hand, it’s great that the week is expanding to include more areas but, on the other hand, that comes with a cost.”
This year marks the 70th anniversary of CMHA’s mental health week.