While education surrounding mental illness has grown in recent years, volunteers from Parkdale’s Arrabon House are still looking to Stop the “Crazy”.
A group of staffers and a resident from the shelter and support agency took to the streets of downtown Toronto on Wednesday, Aug. 15 to help break down misconceptions surrounding mental health issues.
While downtown, they held up signs designed to spread the word that mental health is unfairly viewed in an inaccurate light and enlisted passersby to sign postcards pledging to end the stigma surrounding mental health.
“We’re kicking off our comment card campaign, primarily in Parkdale, but also across the city,” said Arrabon House community outreach coordinator Wendy Curnew-Harris. “People don’t seek the help they need if there are stigmas about mental health.”
Arrabon House offers a safe, home-like environment, plus life skills development and other supports for girls aged 13 to 18 who have suffered abuse, trauma and mental health issues. Curnew-Harris said the organization’s Stop the “Crazy” campaign is one of several campaigns Arrabon House plans on starting in the coming months.
The various campaigns will serve to educate and inform the public on the realities of mental health issues and the work Arrabon House does, though the organization also has another lofty goal in mind.
“Our long-term goal is to expand and open a new house,” she said. “There’s a huge gap in services for people in the 18 to 35 age range, and that’s something other agencies we’ve worked with have said as well.”
While the group of volunteers was relatively small, they were tireless in trying to get their message out to those in the downtown core.
“We really wanted to create awareness of what mental health issues are,” said Arrabon House child and youth worker Saira Batasar. “(People) look at people with mental health issues funny and treat them differently.”
Arrabon House resident Krystal Whyte, who has a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, also came out to enlist Torontonians to sign postcards and spread information she hopes will defuse some of the negative misconceptions surrounding mental health issues.
“Being a person who has what’s known as FASD, I’ve always wanted to talk about it because I don’t want to be one of the people who are just talked about by other people,” she said.
Because Whyte’s mother drank while pregnant, parts of Whyte’s brain did not develop fully, which hinders her patience and organizational skills.
In the year-plus she has lived there, Whyte said Arrabon House has helped her in various ways.
“They’ve helped me with my struggles in school,” she said. “If I have a problem, they can help me one-on-one.”
Those looking to support the campaign can do so online via the campaign’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/StopTheCrazy or on Twitter at @stopthecrazy1