Every day, people all around you are suffering. Much of the time you can’t tell who they are, how they feel or what they need in order to heal.
Mental illness is an often invisible affliction that has wide-ranging effects and impacts.
Anne Simonsen knows the struggle well.
“I was really isolated,” she remembers. “I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety and really I needed a push to get out and meet people, to socialize and to form a safety network.”
But then when Simonsen was getting help from her clinician and psychiatrist at Campbell River Mental Health and Substance Use about three years ago, they told her about the Beacon Club.
“I had a lot of fear and anxiety about coming here for the first time,” she says, “but everyone was really friendly. I’ve made friends. I like the camaraderie, getting to know people and having some laughs.”
Located on Pier Street in the heart of Campbell River, the Beacon Club has been helping adults aged 19 and over with mental illnesses since 1993. It provides a safe, welcoming space for its members to socialize with their peers, learn new skills, and enjoy meals and activities together.
Simonsen found she liked the club so much, she started working there. She’s been helping keep the place clean and tidy for the past two years.
But besides her work keeping the place clean, Simonsen also comes to the club for three weekly meals, participates in the weekly Effective Communication group and special club events like Spa Day, the beach party and karaoke. She also attends movies and concerts, goes bowling and is one of the first members to sign up for trips to other island communities.
Simonsen, along with many others who suffer from mental illness – and those who support them – will be participating in the 6th Annual Defeat Depression Walk June 10 because as someone who has the mental illness, she wants to let others know there’s hope and help.
Beacon Club administrator, Robyn Ellsworth, says the event is not only important for raising funds to support the club’s programming, but it also raises awareness of an under-appreciated affliction.
“Mental health is important for everybody,” Ellsworth says. “Whether it’s stress at work or just having a million things on the go in life. But then there are the more severe issues like schizophrenia or bipolar or PTSD – which I think is becoming much more well-known with what’s been coming out about military personnel and first responders and people in those kinds of professions – there still needs to be a lot more done in terms of getting rid of that stigma.”
But for Simonsen, the event is about doing what she can to help the club that has helped her so much.
“You get a sense of being a part of the community by being a part of the club and participating in the activities,” Simonsen says. “And being at the club has helped me get over my own sense of stigma about my depression.
“If I hadn’t come here, I would be in bed, never leaving my place. The depression would have sunk so low, I would have considered suicide.”
She still continues to work with her mental health support team, as well, and she notes finding the right medication and dosage has also helped.
“It takes time, but when you find it, it’s great,” she says.
Join Simonsen, Ellsworth and everyone else supporting mental health at the Defeat Depression Walk, Sunday, June 10 at Robert Ostler Park. Registration is 10 a.m. and the 4 km walk begins at 11 a.m. The route will be from the park, up to the museum, across the road to Sequoia Park and back down to Robert Ostler Park for a post-walk barbecue at the longhouse. For more information, contact Beacon Club administrator Robyn Ellsworth at 250-286-8828 or by email at email@example.com
Or you can go to CampbellRiver.DefeatDepression.ca to register or make a pledge.