The City of Sault Ste. Marie raised a flag outside city hall Wednesday morning to usher in this year’s Bell Let’s Talk campaign locally.
City staff were joined by first responders for the flag raising ceremony.
“The City of Sault Ste. Marie recognizes that mental illness is a serious issue,” Mayor Christian Provenzano told the crowd gathered in the lobby of city hall prior to the flag raising. “We need to support our staff through the appropriate programming, and we need to continue breaking down stigmas and misconceptions through education and honest discussion.”
“The city is striving to create an environment of acceptance, tolerance and awareness at the municipality, and across our community at large.”
The city, Provenzano says, coordinated its first mental health initiative four years ago.
“It is important for city council - along with all our city staff - to further awareness about mental health, by speaking out about this issue and supporting events such as today’s flag raising ceremony,” said Provenzano. “Through our words and through our actions, all of us can help create a community where everyone feels welcome, accepted and supported.”
In 2017, the City of Sault Ste. Marie partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association locally to launch the City of Sault Ste. Marie First Responder Peer Support Program, which received a $20,000 grant from the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund last year.
The program, which is a team of first responders from all services trained in the delivery of mental health intervention, received a donation of $1,090 collected from city staff.
Local paramedic and peer support program team leader Steve Olsen told the crowd gathered for the flag raising that compounding effect of stress and exposure to trauma at work takes a toll on first responders’ mental health and their general well-being.
“Professionals trained to treat trauma can help those that are suffering reclaim their emotional footing, but that requires acknowledging the problem, and first responders don’t always find that easy,” Olsen said, “We operate in a culture where we want to uphold our image of invincibility - we often look at ourselves as the people who help, not as a people who, at times, need help.”
This year, the Sault Area Hospital received a $10,000 grant from the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund for its SAFEWARDS Program, intended to promote a safe healing environment for its patients, staff and visitors.