Celebration of HOPE returns to Campbell River

Event helps raise awareness, reduce stigma and celebrate those helping the cause of addressing mental illness

Individuals recovering from mental illness, families, friends, mental health supporters and community leaders gathered in Campbell River in October to celebrate recovery, promote awareness and reduce stigma around mental health.

They came together for the 9th Annual HOPE (Health, Optimism, Pride, Empowerment) Awards, an event that’s taken an important place in the local community calendar.

“The HOPE Awards are such a great time of year,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “There’s no question that the pride, the hard work and the determination of everyone in the room is being celebrated. It is a great accomplishment and a great opportunity to really celebrate what HOPE stands for. We have to be willing to face mental health and or substance use problems without stigma, and embrace those who have had the courage to work and help themselves, and those people who work with them.”

The first HOPE Awards were held in 2008 after Island Health – Mental Health and Substance Use provided one-time funding to organize a community forum in partnership with the Campbell River Mental Health and Substance Use Advisory Committee, the Campbell River Beacon Club – a supportive place for adults living with mental illness – and the Campbell River and North Island Schizophrenia Society.

The decision was to create an event during Mental Illness Awareness Week that focused on celebrating hope and positive messages around recovery.

Over the last nine years 63 HOPE awards have been presented.

Most recipients have been people recovering from mental health illness and or substance use problems, honoured and recognized for their commitment to recovery, and how their individual recovery journeys are an inspiration for others.

As well, in the past few years other community members have been nominated for their efforts to increase awareness, reduce stigma and improve local services.

This year, HOPE Awards were presented to six individuals in recognition of their inspiring recovery journeys. In addition, Elaine Bortnick of the schizophrenia society was presented with the second annual Dr. Phil Minnaar HOPE Award for Building a Positive Community.

For the past two years ‘Hailey’, the talk show host puppet from the schizophrenia society’s “Hailey’s Comments” Shaw TV program, was the Master of Ceremonies – along with Laura Appleton-Jones, Coordinator/Director of the Brainstormers Puppet Group.

People who helped with the production and told their stories for Hailey’s Comments were also recognized with special certificates of appreciation.

The HOPE Awards are a celebration of community and teamwork. It really is a group effort with various organizations and people contributing.

The Beacon Club made the punch and centrepieces for the tables.

The Dinner Bell – a program providing training and frozen entrees for individuals recovering from mental illness – catered the tea party.

BCSS and the Advisory Committee help with planning.

Island Health staff help with the set-up, decorating and clean-up as well as helping to make people welcome.

Over the years, in response to feedback and with lots of input, the event has evolved into a familiar format – an afternoon tea party with musical entertainment, a speaker or two, and the award presentations. The slightly tongue-in-cheek theme this year: Where there’s tea there’s HOPE.

“It was a true privilege to be part of the HOPE Awards this year,” said Petra Ballantyne, Manager of Island Health Mental Health and Substance Use services for Campbell River and the Comox Valley. “The mutual respect and support from all who attended was inspiring. The award recipients and participants shared their journeys and experiences with sincerity and courage. Thank you to the organizers, supporters, and participants who make the awards a memorable experience.”