This week, October 3rd to 9th, is mental health awareness week that is an annual national public education campaign designed to help create awareness of the reality of mental illness. The week was established by the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and is now coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) in cooperation with all its member organizations and many other supporters across Canada.
For Amber Phillips, it is a reminder of what it is to try and navigate the maze of the medical ‘system’ when it comes to mental health.
“When a person breaks a bone or has an operation, everybody rallies around that person be it sending get well cards or making meals, etc.,” says Phillips. “Unfortunately, I can attest from personal experience, that those persons who have a mental illness don’t get a card of any kind, or extra support from family and friends. When admitted to the Psychiatric Unit there are only a small number if any visitors who come to see patients which is sad.”
Phillips began to write Get Well Cards for patients in the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit and the Adult Psychiatric Unit at the Grey Bruce Health Services Owen Sound Hospital. “I hand-write each one, each with different quotes that touch my heart that day … a message from me saying that I believe in them and that they’ve ‘got this’. The cards are not for a particular patient but for any patient on the unit.”
“I’m doing this because I admitted two years ago to the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit and
the Adult Psychiatric Unit,” says Phillips. “I lost all hope and faith in myself and the people around me. I felt so alone and had no hope for the future. I felt that, if I got a Get Well Card, I would not feel so alone – that someone cared and actually took the time to write a card. Even if it makes a patient pause for a moment or to help rekindle a light of hope, it is all worth it.”
“Now, with the pandemic, it’s needed more then ever,” says Phillips. “It truly takes a village. The Hospital Chaplain delivers the cards to the unit, then the Peer Support Worker or Nurses distribute them to the patients for me. I couldn’t do what I set out to do without them. It makes me feel good and helps me in my own mental health journey by doing something for other people.”