Mary Beth Fallon, left, of the Canadian Mental Health Association, talks with Michelle Skinner of Western Health during the grand opening of the CHANNAL office in Stephenville. Both the organizations they work for are partners with CHANNAL.
STEPHENVILLE Shelley Lodge has been dealing with depression and anxiety for about 10 years now and is one of a number of people to welcome a CHANNAL office to Stephenville.
The Community Studies student at College of the North Atlantic in Stephenville said she has been involved with Bonnie Rotchford, regional peer supporter, for close to a year now with CHANNAL, which stands for the Consumers Health Awareness Network Newfoundland and Labrador.
The office in Stephenville, which serves the Bay St. George area and Corner Brook, opened its doors in March of 2013, but only had its official opening Wednesday afternoon.
Rotchford made the move to CHANNAL from the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network, which was where Lodge got to know Rotchford.
“Its organizations like this (CHANNAL) that help me be comfortable with my illness, to learn how to manage it and understand it,” she said of the support she’s received so far. “It’s about making things less scary and not being embarrassed to talk about it.”
Lodge said her depression and anxiety is an illness that needs to be treated just like any other illness, and she has learned talking about it can help identify supports that are available.
She said Rotchford does a great job with peer support and that she’s a great advocate at getting the word out.
“I relate to that and a lot of the things she goes through,” said Lodge. “What’s so great about Bonnie is that although she suffers through that illness (depression), she’s trying to reduce the stigma that’s attached to it.”
Now Lodge is also paying it forward — she’s been involved in volunteering with CHANNAL for different events and is hoping to do a work term with the organization through the community studies program.
She said Rotchford has created a relaxed atmosphere at the CHANNAL office where people can get the help they need, especially for those who may be afraid to talk about their depression to family members.
“It’s a really warm space she has created and I’ve personally been able to refer people to come here and connect with the support,” said Lodge.
There were about 30 people who attended the official opening at the office, located at 143 Main St., upstairs in the Subway building.
The non-profit, provincial, grassroots organization is run by and for individuals with mental health issues.
Rotchford already offers a peer group support and will soon be offering one-on-one support to members.
The office will also be offer a program called “The Art of Recovery” in mid-February, which involves a local artist giving examples of how to sculpt with clay and using that medium in supporting mental health recovery.
Rotchford said people don’t have to be referred by a doctor and that anyone who identifies with having a mental health issue can give CHANNAL a call to get information on services.
Peer support can take place online as well, through Skype, e-mail or texting. There’s an anonymous online group available from anywhere in the province. Just visit www.channal.ca and go to the meeting room link.
Peer support takes place at the Stephenville office Mondays from 7-9 p.m.