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Circle of Remembrance and Hope honours loved ones lost to suicide – Brandon Sun

Coffee On Us – Focuses on Men’s Mental Health                                        By: Lanny Stewart – Westman Journal – January 31, 2017

Folks didn’t just come for the free coffee. There was also a lot of community engagement regarding the subject of mental health at the “Coffee on Us” event recently, which was put on by the Suicide Prevention Implementation Network in Brandon. “We just wanted to get people in the building – including those who were already there for coffee – to have a chat with us about resources, talking about mental health,” said Jill Brown, co-chair of SPIN. “We particularly wanted to focus on men’s mental health because that was one of our initiatives for the year.” The event, which took place at Coffee Cultures on Jan. 25, provided people with an opportunity to actively engage in conversation with SPIN members and at the same time, check out some of the different mental health material that was made available. “Some people even wrote down something about mental health, whether it be a quote, an inspiration for someone – just the fact that they’re talking about it is important,” Brown said. Every year, Brandon SPIN, which is a network of community members working in stride to promote wellness and the risk of suicide, comes together to work on an action plan. This year, the focus was on men’s mental health. “One of our discussions at SPIN was that we do lots for youth, we do a variety of training and things but we’re just concerned that we aren’t reaching men,” she said. According to, middle-aged men between the ages of 40-60 have the highest suicide rate in Canada. “Men have to be tough, they have to be financially stable, stoic, not show feelings and therefore, many don’t reach out for help,” Brown said. “We know that it’s a high risk group.” She says there are resources available for men in the Westman area who are in need of someone to talk to – this includes the Westman Crisis Services, which has a toll free number to call: 1-888-379-7699. There is also the Prairie Mountain Health Adult Community Health program. For more information on that program, go online to For more information on SPIN, head to The event coincided with Bell Let’s Talk Day, an annual Canada-wide initiative to help break the silence of mental illness and to help support mental health across the nation. It’s worth noting #BellLetsTalk raised $6,585,250 in funding for Canadian mental health due to a record 131,705,010 social media interactions.


Mom opens up to local students about battle with mental illness

By: Lindsey Enns Tuesday, Apr. 21, 2015

On the outside, Marli Brown is a hard-working mother of three and an avid volunteer within her community. But on the inside, she has been struggling with various mental health illnesses for most of her life.

“It’s an invisible disability,” Brown said. “You can’t tell who has depression, who doesn’t … but as more awareness comes out, those are keys to helping get everyone on board and understand.”

Brown shared her personal story during the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Youth Anti-Stigma Summit at Brandon’s A.R. McDiarmid Civic Complex on Monday.

Roughly 50 students from rural and local high schools attended the event, co-ordinated by two of Prairie Mountain Health’s mental-health workers.

Kailey Kowalick, one of the co-ordinators, said the gathering was a chance to inform youth of all the resources out there, while encouraging them to seek help when they need it.

“We do have the resources in schools but a lot of the time students in the rural communities aren’t sure where to go or what to do,” Kowalick said, adding the main message they hoped to get across to students was to be brave, reach out and speak up.

As a social worker living in a small town, Brown initially had reservations about openly discussing her mental health issues.

But when the Dauphin resident went public with her daily struggles and became the 2013 Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health’s face of mental health, she was surprised by the response she received.

“There were more and more people saying, ‘Yeah, me too,’” Brown said. “And then I realized everybody has different gifts … I can speak, so I dove deep into the public speaking at that point.”

Brown, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, anxiety, dissociation disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, now shares her story as a way to inspire others and fight stigma.

Monday’s all-day event included breakout sessions for students, activities and speakers aimed at challenging the stereotypes and misconceptions that surround mental health.

Mikayla Hunter, a Grade 11 Minnedosa Collegiate student, said yesterday’s exercises helped her better understand stigma and how it affects people. “It does affect you and make you feel more scared and alone,” she said. “If people know more … it’s going to help.”

Emily MacDonald, a Grade 10 Minnedosa Collegiate student, said she found the event inspiring.

“When you live in a small town, you have support from people there; but when you come to things like this, you see how many people … are trying to help and you just feel more support.”


» Twitter: @LindseyEnns

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 21, 2015


Opening up about loss of son key to healing, couple says

By: Lindsey Enns with The Brandon Sun

Wednesday, Sep. 11, 2013

Brandon’s Suicide Prevention Implementation Network (SPIN) wants the community to know that it’s never too late or too early to reach out for help.

“Stigma is huge and it’s a big barrier preventing people from getting the help they need,” Brandon SPIN chairperson Kathy Foley said. “Statistics indicate that one in 20 people will have suicide thoughts at any given time. Thank goodness that one in 20 people aren’t acting on those thoughts, but that does mean that people are in distress and need some help.”

Nearly 40 community members gathered at a public event at city hall on Tuesday to mark World Suicide Prevention Day.

The event, sponsored by Brandon SPIN, also gave the organization a chance to recognize local resource groups who make a difference in the community and support those whose lives have been impacted by suicide.

“Resources before, after, always are important,” Foley said. “Even one suicide is one too many because we’re losing valuable lives that could be contributing to our community.”

The event also gave one family a chance to share their story.

Two years ago, Evelyn and Rod Lewandoski’s 44-year-old son committed suicide, and they both agree talking about it is part of the healing process.

“With suicide, it just seems to be taboo to talk about with anybody that hasn’t gone through it. People just don’t want to talk about it,” Rod said. “It happened to us, so we like to talk about it and need to talk about it.”

The couple lives in Erickson and said there aren’t many mental health resources there, so they attend monthly suicide bereavement meetings in Brandon.

“It’s been wonderful,” Evelyn said. “They’ve helped us a lot … it’s an ongoing thing for anyone who’s involved in something like this.”

The meetings also help them remember that they’re not alone, Evelyn said.

“There are other people going through similar stories. Every story is a little bit different, but the pain is the same,” she said.

The couple said losing their son has changed their lives in “every way imaginable,” but are thankful he left them a hand-written note.

“Our own son said he couldn’t speak about it, but he hoped that other people would be able to,” Evelyn said.

Although he doesn’t look at it very often, Rod said he thinks about the hand-written note a lot.

“I’ve almost memorized every line,” Rod said. “At least it’s something. A lot of people don’t have anything and you would question yourself even more I think.”

Foley said it’s important for family and friends of loved ones who have taken their own lives to remember that supports are available.

“That’s one of the messages we want to get out is that help is always available,” she said. “Every one of us has mental health issues one time in our life, and it’s important for us to reach out and get help.”

Some of the resource centres recognized at the event included the annual Circle of Remembrance planning committee, a memorial service held for family and friends who have been bereaved by suicide.

Westman Crisis Service and Centre for Adult Psychiatry staff were also recognized for their work in suicide intervention and YWCA’s Power of Being a Girl conference planning committee was recognized for its work in the area of mental well-being and suicide prevention.

For more information about resources and crisis services, call Westman Crisis Services at 204-725-4411, Community Health Services Brandon at 204-578-2400 or the 7th Street Access Centre at 204-578-4800.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 11, 2013