A group of local and committed individuals are making an effort to engage citizens in conversations about mental health, and reduce the stigma associated with it.

Twenty per cent of Canadians will experience mental illness or languishing mental health in their lifetime, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), which means roughly 200 people in Valemount — 1,000 in the Robson Valley — (will) experience languishing mental health.

Sue VandenBergh is the project lead of the Shared Care pilot project in Valemount, which has 25 members making up the Local Action Team.

The Shared Care program is a collaborative partnership of the B.C. Ministry of Health and Doctors of B.C., according to its website, with the intent of supporting family physicians and specialist physicians in working together to improve the flow of patients from primary to specialist care since 2007.

The Shared Care Committee’s base funding is $6.5M, according to its website, and consists of four voting members from Doctors of BC and four voting members from the Ministry of Health.

“We work hard, and creatively, to bring as many activities and things to the people of Valemount,” says VandenBergh. “We have different challenges than other teams, as we are quite remote and have so few people.”

The local action team hosted a free BBQ at the high school where interactive mental health conversations took place, she says, while earlier in the summer the organization took home third place for its float in the Valemountain Days’ Parade.

The Stand Up for Mental Health Comedy Show was the same weekend as the parade, VandenBergh notes.

Shared Care’s Local Action Team is funded by Northern Interior Rural’s Division of Family Practice, VandenBergh says, and they are just one of 64 teams across B.C.

The team in Valemount has a lot of freedom for planning and ideas, VandenBergh says, but everything has to be approved by the funders and has to have an impact on the community relative to its three objectives.

The three goals, according to VandenBergh, are:

• Reduction of Stigma and stereotyping around mental health

• Youth recruitment and empowerment

• Community awareness and resource mapping

A main goal of Valemount’s local action team, VandenBergh says, is to provide Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST).

Rural communities lack consistency in how to appropriately help an individual — specifically youth — who may be experiencing suicidal attempts or ideations, she says.

Suicide attempts in Canada account for 24 per cent of all deaths amount 15-24-year-olds and 16 per cent among 25-44-year-olds, according to the CMHA, while suicide is the leading causes of death in men and women from adolescence to middle age.

However, The mortality rate due to suicide among men is four times the rate among women, according to the CMHA.

“We want to truly give back to the children, youth and families of this community,” says VandenBergh, adding Shared Care can do so by bringing programs, seminars, training, educational speakers and workshops to the village.

Those who want to learn more about the program are encouraged to visit or to call the Valemount Learning Centre.