Group aims to improve the community’s mental health

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Berry picking in the jack pines, trails (cross-country ski, in town, and others), the lake, and other outdoor activities were mentioned by several people as assets in Slave Lake that promote mental health.

This discussion was part of the first Slave Lake and Area Mental Health Network (SLAM) meeting on April 9.

Before the meeting, the group was tentatively called Slave Lake Mental Health Coalition. This changed slightly to be more inclusive and to align with the parent organization, the Rural Mental Health Network (Project).

The other question discussed was ‘what is the purpose of this coalition?’ Going forward, the Network will discuss a draft vision statement, goals, and other definitions which came out of suggestions at the meeting and feedback afterward.

The first meeting had an excellent turnout of 20 people (including the ‘animator’ and two ‘co-animators’). Moving forward, the plan is to meet monthly, alternating lunch and evening meetings. However, attending meetings is not required to be part of the Network.

Part of the goal of the Network is to engage with ‘unusual suspects’ – people who would not normally join a mental health committee or network.

This was true of the first meeting. Some participants are in mental health professions, but others are not. Participants included a local RCMP officer, gym owner, pastor, education assistant, etc.

Also, the animator and co-animators do not work in the mental health field, but are interested community members.
The Network is open to any humans living in Slave Lake, with or without a mental illness.

Not all people will be impacted by a mental illness, but everyone has mental health – mind, emotions, and spirit. This can fluxuate from flourishing to languishing. Sometimes from day to day.

This means a mental illness does not mean a person cannot have positive mental health. Also, not everyone who is struggling with poor mental health has a mental illness.

The reason for the geographic limit is that an overarching goal of the group is to spark a grassroots movement toward making Slave Lake a mentally healthy community. The exact boundaries of what constitutes Slave Lake are yet to be defined.

There is one more set of training available through the Rural Mental Health Network (Project) if people in neighbouring communities would like to start their own group. For example, Smith has an animator in training.

People at the meeting also mentioned other assets. These were: gyms, people, recreation, community groups, religion, the library (both the books and online programs), psychological services (both AHS and private), skate park, fire department (and volunteerism), local schools, beach, wellness counsellors in schools, helping agencies, and pets.

The next SLAM Network meeting was Tuesday May 4 from 7 to 7:45 p.m. on Zoom.

People interested in being part of the conversation can join the Network’s Facebook – Rural Mental Health Project Slave Lake, or contact ‘animator’ Pearl Lorentzen at [email protected] or 780-691-6199.

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