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Jorge Maria LJI Reporter

A local mental health non-profit is one of 10 early adopters in a nationwide suicide prevention initiative.

The Outauoais’s Connexions Resource Centre is the only mental health non-profit organization in Quebec to be chosen to participate in the Roots of Hope project.

In a statement, the resource centre said the Roots of Hope initiative “is a community-led project that aims to reduce the impacts of suicide within the community.”

The project, funded by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), seeks to find local community organizations to implement a more grassroots and local approach to providing solutions to suicide prevention. In a statement, MHCC president and CEO Michel Rodrigue said an individualist approach is best because it allows communities to develop a “program, [that] reflects their cultural, linguistic, and geographic needs.”

According to the MHCC, “every day 10 people in Canada die by suicide.”

Last October, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released its annual report and cited multiple examples of the strain on mental health caused by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

Caitlin Foy, Connexions Community Outreach Coordinator for the Pontiac, is keenly aware of the problems facing the people of the Pontiac. She grew up here and lives in Otter Lake. In an interview with The Equity, she said Canada’s health information line, 811, had been overloaded during the pandemic. Connexions started mental health workshops last year and there was a significant response from the community looking for in-person help.

“Social isolation is also getting to people,” Foy said. As the pandemic situation has improved, people have been asking for more in person events during the transition. Foy said it is hard to find the balance to provide the support people need while not increasing the risk to the general public.

The Connexions Resource Centre is part of an umbrella of networks under the Community Health and Social Services Network (CHSSN). According to Foy, Connexions’ primary mission is to serve and promote the health, well-being, and vitality of the English-speaking population of the Outaouais. The organization provides family, seniors, and mental health programming, which is Foy’s area of focus.

Roots of Hope will draw on previous pilot projects of the MHCC while working with local community organizations like Connexions to learn and adapt to regional realities and challenges.

Foy feels there is a lack of awareness of what programs exist within the community. “Before starting this role, there [were] a lot of organizations that I didn’t even know exist right here,” she said. Awareness is one of the pillars of the program.

“A really big goal is highlighting whatever exists already and what’s working well.”

There are many existing mental health and suicide prevention organizations in the Outaouais; what lacks is cohesion and coordination between these varied organizations.

“We hope to establish a strong suicide prevention coalition with diverse partners,” said Connexions’ Executive Director Danielle Lanyi in a statement.

“There is a lot here in the Pontiac to draw from, but it is a matter of getting everyone in the room together.” Foy said.

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