“I never thought my story would give others hope and empower them to make small changes to begin their recovery journey,” Donna Shukys, Peer Support worker at Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region.   

It would be difficult to find a Canadian who isn’t aware of Bell Let’s Talk Day. Most would be equally aware that the conversations being shared are about mental illness – and mental wellness. What they may not be aware of though, is how those messages across social media platforms make a difference in the lives of people with mental health and/or addiction challenges. The Bell Let’s Talk campaign invests heavily back into communities while engaging Canadians in the conversation.

As in each previous year on Bell Let’s Talk Day, today on January 25, for every text message, mobile and long distance call made by Bell Canada customers, every tweet and Instagram post using #BellLetsTalk, every view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video at Facebook.com/BellLetsTalk, and every use of the Bell Let’s Talk Snapchat geofilter, Bell will donate five cents to support Canadian mental health programs.

The Bell Let’s Talk initiative is more than a national awareness and anti-stigma campaign. Each year it provides grants in the range of $5,000 to $25,000 to mental health care, supports and services. Since 2011, Bell Let’s Talk has provided $6 million to 344 organizations through the Community Fund. This year, Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region received a $20,000 grant through this initiative to support its Peer Support Program.

A special cheque was presented at the CMHA – Calgary Region’s Partner Appreciation Night on Jan 23, 2017 with singer/songwriter and Bell Let’s Talk ambassador, Séan McCann. This will allow CMHA – Calgary Region to provide the opportunity for anyone – individual, family member or professional – looking for a connection with others, who is new to the mental health and/or addiction community, or looking for information about a mental health diagnosis, the chance to find support by connecting with someone with lived experience. CMHA – Calgary Region will also be able to provide training, internships, opportunities for employment and a community of support for those interested in providing peer support with funding from this grant. (Opportunities for Individual and Family Peer Training and Internship can be found here.)

We have discovered that when someone does reach out, the best support often comes from those who have been there too. These individuals with lived experience, peer supporters, know the recovery journey with all its complexities, because they too have waked that difficult path. Because of that they are able to offer a special kind of support with that shared understanding and can assist and provide you with information on your options, opportunities and supports available.

Shukys says she knows firsthand how difficult and daunting it can be to reach out for help. But she also knows that with the proper support, life does get better. As such, her goal is to give everyone she speaks with the support that she was thankful to receive: a compassionate, understanding ear, knowledge, guidance, and most importantly, hope that recovery is possible.

“Illness doesn’t define us, but our strength and courage does. This strength and courage adds to resiliency daily and reminds me that I can reach any goal I set for myself to achieve,” said Shukys who has been a Peer Support worker since 2016 at CMHA – Calgary Region.

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