Coast Mental Health

by Darrell Burnham, CEO Coast Mental Health

Darrell BurnhamCoast Mental Health staff see hope and triumph every day.

Coast Mental Health started the CTCB Awards seventeen years ago. We saw this event as means to highlight the triumph and perseverance of the human spirit.

Through the Courage Awards, we meet six remarkable people who demonstrate these characteristics. Each recipient is a beacon of hope, a fearless hero, a shining example of possibility.

To us it is a wonderful parallel to the recovery we see in people with mental illness.

No matter how bleak things may be, not matter what hardship or misfortune you face, through the right supports and inspiration we all have an ability to rise up and find a brighter future. It shows that there is resilience in each of us that allows us to pick ourselves up, to dust ourselves off, and to overcome.

Over the years we have had many hundreds of nominees, each with their own extraordinary story. Every story has a common thread – great adversity, a life filled with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, heartbreak, suffering, and despair.

For me, I learn just how challenging life can be and I see how fortunate most of us are to have our safety, comfort and health. In fact, when I read the challenges Courage nominees have faced, my trivial problems pale in comparison to these remarkable individuals.

And yet out of these stories of heartbreak and despair, somehow, each person finds the internal strength to persevere, to rise up and to ultimately spread their wings and soar. They find the courage to not just continue on, but to engage and inspire others and in so doing they are giving back to their communities.

If you speak to the frontline staff at Coast Mental Health, they can relate. Every day they work with people with mental illness: people who have endured significant hardship and have faced unimaginable odds in their battle with these sometimes-crippling diseases.

Mental illness is a thief, it robs you of your identity, it takes away your livelihood and it isolates you from your friends and family. It leaves you a shadow of yourself… alone and hopeless. And if diseases like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are not bad enough, add to that stigma and discrimination, and a society that simply does not understand.

Yet Coast Mental Health staff see hope and triumph every day. Through counseling, intervention and care we see recovery. From our meal programs, clothing and supported housing we see restored dignity. And from life-skills training, education and employment programs we see a reduction of poverty.

We know that people can and do recover from mental illness and that they indeed can overcome.

We know that mental illness is simply another adversity and, with support, it too can be courageously beaten.

We are fortunate that the Courage To Come Back Awards give us a vehicle to deliver our message, to share our mission and to help us bring communities together.

And of course, most importantly, the annual Courage Awards introduce us to 6 remarkable recipients. People who deserve to be honoured and whose stories are so powerful they simply must be shared. Their stories overwhelm us with emotion, fill us with awe, and give us hope that within each of us exists that fearless hero.

To nominate someone who inspires you, visit couragetocomeback.ca.

“True heroism is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” ~Arthur Ashe

 

Courage To Come Back Mental Health Award

by Sandra Yuen MacKay, 2013 Courage To Come Back Award Recipient

sandra yuen mackayHow the Courage To Come Back Mental Health Award Award changed my life

Hello my name is Sandra Yuen MacKay. I received the Courage To Come Back award in 2012 in the mental health category. I struggled with mental illness for many years. Tormented by hallucinations and delusions and dealing with side effects of medications, I felt my life was over at many times. But I dug my way out and became an artist, writer and public speaker on recovery. I published a memoir My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness to build awareness and reduce stigma.

A colleague who was also a friend thought I was worthy of this award and nominated me. That in itself was an honour.

One morning, the phone rang, I picked up the phone, and it was Mr. Lorne Segal telling me I had been chosen for this award. I was thrilled. When I received the award and stood in front of over 1000 people at the gala, my life was definitely transformed on personal level and in the way others perceived me.

I met the other recipients and during that short time, we shared a bond knowing the trials we’d been through and the joy we felt upon receiving our awards together. To be part of that experience at the gala, where people opened their hearts and gave toward the Coast Mental Health Foundation to help people in our community was profound. Generosity and humanity flowed in that room.

Since the award, I was named as one of five Faces of Mental Illness in 2012, a national campaign which included advocating to Members of Parliament and visiting the Governor General and his spouse in Ottawa.

The next fall, I spoke at a special event in Nanaimo, I was featured in a bus ad in Terrace, BC and I received a signed photo from the Minister of Defense praising me on my advocacy work. MP Don Davies called me from Ottawa to say how insightful my memoir was and encouraged me to write more. In 2013, I received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributions to the community.

All these things came on the heels of receiving the Courage To Come Back Award. The award played a large part in subsequent events and successes in my life.

There are others I know that deserve this award. People that have walked through fire and emerged ready to aid and inspire others, to give them the courage to move forward. Your child, sibling, relative, friend or colleague could be the next Courage To Come Back recipient.

So, if you know someone who you think is worthy of this award, I urge you to nominate him or her. And that person may one day stand and be acknowledged for their perseverance and dedication to giving back to others.

To nominate someone who inspires you, visit couragetocomeback.ca.

 

Courage Awards – categories

Six Courage Awards presented every year

The annual Courage To Come Back Awards recognize abilities, celebrate differences and give centre stage to six British Columbians who have overcome tremendous challenges, yet reach out to help others in our province. They are our loved ones, our neighbours, our friends, who have faced seemingly–insurmountable odds and who have come through with courage, strength, and a drive to help others.

Courage recipients show us that people can walk again despite the predictions of some of the best medical minds. They teach us that disabled does not mean unable. They prove that hearing voices in one’s head does not mean a lifetime in hospital. These are valuable members of our community despite injury or illness: they are role models.

Addiction: A person who has demonstrated inspirational achievements overcoming the challenges of addiction and who has given back to his or her community. Sobriety must have been maintained for at least the past five years.

Medical: A person who has demonstrated inspirational achievements overcoming the challenges of a serious medical condition, and who has given back to his or her community.

Mental Health: A person who has demonstrated inspirational achievements overcoming the challenges of living with a mental illness, and who has given back to his or her community.

Physical Rehabilitation: A person who has demonstrated inspirational achievements following major trauma or injury which has required extensive physical rehabilitation, and who has given back to his or her community.

Social Adversity: A person who has demonstrated inspirational achievements in the face of abuse, poverty, discrimination or other significant adversity, and who has given back to his or her community. (In the case of new British Columbians, it may be as a result of political upheaval or war experienced before settling here.)

Youth: A young person, under the age of 22 years as of December 31, 2015, who has demonstrated inspirational achievements overcoming illness, injury, addiction or social adversity, and who has given back to his or her community.

The Courage To Come Back Awards will be presented on May 5, 2016 at the Vancouver Convention Centre West.  Buy tickets online today.

To nominate someone who inspires you, visit couragetocomeback.ca.