Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month

< Back to Articles | Topics: Spotlight | Published: April 4, 2023

Mental Health Awareness Month

Getting to know a few of the entrepreneurs working in mental health support

In Canada, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) promotes Mental Health Awareness Week, happening May 1 – 7, 2023. This year, the theme is My Story.

From MentalHealthWeek.ca:

“Collectively and individually, we have multiple layers and stories that make us who we are. And while each year, 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental illness or mental health issue, 5 out of 5 of us – that’s everyone – has mental health.

We all have different, yet equally valuable stories that can be used to share one key message: universal mental health care is important and needed now!”

To celebrate and honour this week, Business Voice reached out to three local entrepreneurs — each specializing in mental health support — to hear about their organizations and learn from their experiences.

Meet Life Beyond the Hurt

Contributed by: Khalieha Cunningham, Founder and President

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” - Lao Tzu

I’m Khalieha Cunningham, an Accounting and Business Professional, and Motivational Speaker and Founder and President of Life Beyond the Hurt Organization. As a domestic violence survivor, I decided to create a safe space, and Life Beyond the Hurt Organization was born: a non-profit organization focusing on providing hope, resources, and a place of solace to anyone experiencing/overcoming domestic violence or some form of hurt in their lives.

Life Beyond the Hurt's mission is to raise awareness and influence social and systemic change around domestic violence — in essence, to help our community live a life beyond their hurt. In today’s world, the call to be something greater than our true selves is stronger than it has ever been. And with this pressure comes adverse effects on our mental health. I believe the key to understanding your mental health is recognition and action, and it’s important to understand the signs when you see them. When you are: no longer showing up as you intended to, not listening when your body speaks, or not taking steps to find the balance and inner peace you require, then there’s work to be done.

For me, this means having mirror moments. A mirror moment means sitting down in my quiet place to pause, reflect upon, and reset my life. My pause means rest, rejuvenation, and relaxation to quiet my mind. My reflection means awareness of my present state and practicing gratitude. Having these moments allows me to reset and redefine myself by being true to who I am and not to what others see or need me to be. Maintaining your mental health starts with a proactive approach to caring for your mind; of vital importance, as mental health impacts everything: your thoughts, behaviour, and actions.

My advice to anyone needing a mental health reset would be to establish a mental health fitness plan; one that encompasses physical health, a healthy diet, mindfulness and gratitude, coaching, and social connection. Remember that you are the architect of your life. Your thoughts are the blueprint to a better future. As with blueprints, which contain intricate details and oftentimes, revisions, so should the plans for your life. Determine the daily steps you need to take to better your life, then document them, envision them, and most importantly, embody them.

Meet Flar Equine Experience

Contributed by: Rachael Dent-Flynn, Owner

As the owner of Flar Equine Experience, I work, with the help of our horses, to facilitate the improvement of life skills and relationships for those looking for an alternate kind of therapy. My interest in and affinity with animals began earlier in my life while working at a doggie daycare/boarding facility. I’m currently working full-time in small option group homes while also running Flar.

In terms of my background/life history, and the challenges I’ve personally faced, my biological dad left when I was 2 yrs. old, and family members disowned me when I came out as LGBTQ+. Since talk therapy wasn't effective for me, despite trying it many times along my journey, I ended up leaning on animals more than humans. When horses came into my life, seven years ago now — pets on the property I’d moved to — I knew there had to be a way to offer an empowering experience through working with these amazing animals. Eight years later, in 2015, I acquired certification as an Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) Facilitator and purchased my own horses. And Flar Equine Experience was born.

In terms of how I take care of my own mental health, when my tolerance is low or not there at all — due to my firefighting first responder PTS — I will head to the horses. Each horse is quite different, just like each of us, so when I'm depressed, a certain horse will come be in my space; if I'm sad a different horse will come; and if I'm in a particularly negative space, yet a different horse will come over to me. The most empowering part of each situation is that the horses force us to be present, which can be just the distraction I, myself, need to redirect my day from a negative to a positive one.

My recommendation when it comes to how to deal with mental health issues in today’s world, would be to become unapologetically authentic — trying everything out there — in your journey to finding what truly works best for you. And recognizing that just because one thing works for one situation doesn't mean it will for the next one you face. So, overall, build your toolbox of resources so full that you have everything you need along the way, because YOU are worth the work!

Meet Save Me Save We
Contributed by: Junior Moaku, Owner

Save Me Save We is a clothing brand that focuses on increasing mental health, awareness, and mental health literacy in communities. Now 27, I started the company in 2019, when I was 23. As an entrepreneur, I’m passionate about academia, mental health, and community development. Born in Montreal, Quebec, I was raised by parents who emigrated to Canada from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the age of 7, my family and I moved to Hamilton, Ontario, which I then called home for the next decade. For the ten years after that, I lived in five different cities across Canada and the U.S., over which time I studied accounting, eventually receiving a Business Administration degree. Formal education was not the only thing I received during that time, however. My experiences playing varsity basketball at several collegiate institutes obliged me to learn a lot about myself and exposed me to the lack of mental health resources available for young adults. While finishing my final year of university, I started Save Me Save We, and now, four years later, we visit schools, universities, organizations, and sports clubs, offering our services.

Though I spend a lot of my time advising and offering others mental health advice, I also take care of myself by recognizing and addressing my own needs. I often ask myself whether I require sleep or peace when I feel overwhelmed. When I have the answer, I am then able to take the appropriate course of action to address those needs. Another way I take care of my health is by keeping up-to-date with my Wellness Wheel (WW). My WW comprises the eight dimensions of wellness (emotional, physical, occupational, intellectual, financial, social, environmental, and spiritual) and I make sure to keep inventory on all of them daily. If I slack off in one area, my wheel becomes flat, and as a result, so does my mental health.

When I advise others about their mental health, I encourage them to do the following things: Firstly, allow more vulnerability in their lives, because that’s the beginning of growth. Vulnerability enables us to reach down within ourselves and question our emotions and circumstances, empowering us to try new experiences — crucial to growth and emotional resiliency. The second thing I advise is to learn to recognize various emotions: identify them, explore them, and control them. Our lack of understanding or ability to communicate our feelings harms our well-being. The more nuanced and unspecific the words we use for our own emotions, the more expansive our inner worlds become. Recognizing and identifying our emotions while experiencing them allows us to appropriately respond, build on relationships, and receive the appropriate help we need. Lastly, I encourage everyone to be of service to someone. We are living in a world in need of more love, peace, and inspiration. Whether it is volunteering, mentoring, doing random acts of kindness in your community, or being an open ear for a peer, you will realize how fulfilling doing so can be.

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