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Clara Hughes rides to Sudbury for mental health awareness

By: Jonathan Migneault - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Jun 28, 2014 - 3:55 PM |
Six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes was in Sudbury Friday, where she talked about her struggle with depression and helped raise funds for the Northern Initiative for Social Action, a local mental health organization. Photo by Jonathan Migneault.

Six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes was in Sudbury Friday, where she talked about her struggle with depression and helped raise funds for the Northern Initiative for Social Action, a local mental health organization. Photo by Jonathan Migneault.

Appearance helped raise more than $65,000 for the Northern Initiative for Social Action

Six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes opened the conversation around mental health in Sudbury Friday evening after a 173-kilometre stretch of her Clara's Big Ride bike tour across Canada.

Hughes talked about her lifelong struggle with depression, and shared stories of Canadians she has met throughout her cross-Canada journey, and the struggles they have faced with stigma and mental health care.


“It's been amazing to share in this and have so many people come out and tell their stories,” she said.

She said a girl she met in Blind River named Samantha, prior to her arrival in Sudbury, told her she was on a waiting list and would not be able to see a psychiatrist until 2015.

“That's the reality of what is available for help for a lot of people,” Hughes said.

Hughes said mental health awareness has come a long way in Canada over the past few years, but more needs to be done to reduce stigma and provided services for many who still suffer in silence.

She arrived in Sudbury on the 106th day of her tour, and will conclude the journey in Ottawa on Canada Day.

Her presentation at the United Steelworkers Hall Friday night also helped raise funds for the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA), a local service that helps people with mental health issues develop their occupational skills.

Ticket sales for a dinner prior to Hughes talk raised $65,000. Organizers said they expected an auction and additional donations to raise an another $20,000 to help pay for a larger space.
NISA member Terry Fullager said the organization changed her life.

“I've gained more through NISA than I have in years of therapy and psychiatry work,” she said.

Fullager grew up in an abusive household, and first tried to commit suicide when she was eight years old. She tried to end her life again when she was 11.

It was not until she was in her twenties, she said, that she realized the psychological damage her upbringing had caused, and started to seek help.

“A lot of people who suffer mental illness do come from pasts where abuses of all sorts are present,” she said.

Fullager said NISA gave her a sense of belonging, and the support workers there, who all have lived experience with mental illness, encouraged her creativity.

Now she is on track to become a peer support worker and help others recover from mental illness.

The funds raised Friday will help NISA move to a 9,000-square-foot location at 36 Elgin St. in downtown Sudbury, where peer support workers will be able to offer more programs that teach basic life skills such as cooking and nutrition, sewing and writing.
Jonathan Migneault

Jonathan Migneault

Staff Writer

@jmigneault

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