Helping With Mental Health: Little Things Can Make A Big Difference

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James Maurice Campbell, a volunteer with the Canadian Mental Health Association in Belleville thinks that to be a hero "you have to have understanding and compassion for others. Just because you make a million dollars don’t make you a hero. Heroes come in many packages." Photo by Buckley Smith


BELLEVILLE – When James Campbell was growing up in Bobcaygeon, two events shook the community to its core and have stuck with him ever since.

Campbell, who goes by his middle name Maurice, was 10 years old when a friend of the family took his own life, and soon after another farmer in the community also committed suicide.

"Both of these things of course affected the community tremendously. Everyone said I talked to him last week and he seemed okay, but clearly they weren’t okay," said Campbell. "So both of these things happened at a very young age and I always had in the back of my mind that those two things should have never happened."

And now years later, now that he has retired, he has taken that free time he has to try to make a positive change for people struggling with mental health issues.

He volunteers his time at the Canadian Mental Health Association in Belleville, making calls to their clients to check in on them and just generally chat with them; as many of them do not have people in their life they can do that with.

"When I first started I found this rather daunting that some of these people would think that a phone call was such an important thing. But then you stop and think about it and maybe these people don’t have friends. So maybe they are shut out," said Campbell.

When he first started making these calls for CMHA, Campbell said he questioned how important the work he was doing was, but he was set straight by one of the ladies he was assigned to speak with.

"There is a lady that is now deceased and I talked to her for about ten years. And I made the mistake of saying 'you know sometimes we don’t know how well we are doing.' She jumped all over me. She said 'don’t you ever say that. I think you people that volunteer are angels.' She had people in her life, but she couldn't talk to them everyday or be sure it was going to be a non-judgemental conversation. Well I went home that night and I thought by god maybe I am doing something good here."

Through his work with CMHA he has also gotten the chance to watch the younger generation take their turn to change the world for the better, as he has worked closely with some students who have come to work with CMHA for their placement.

And this is something he says has been a great delight to witness.

"I had a girl form Durham College and when she first came in I thought she was a hopeless case. She didn’t want to do it. But then she was in with me again and she opened up to me and she said that she had depression and she was slowly overcoming that. I would have written her off in a minute yet when she opened up to me I thought 'you’re doing pretty good for a kid who’s father didn’t really do much to help her. He was one of the ones that would say pull up your socks you’re okay.' So i think she had a lot on her plate. You never know, do you?"

And Campbell says he thinks having experience with your own mental health issues can be a great help when helping others with similar issues, as he saw with this student.

"She was very effective with a couple people she phoned because she could speak their language. For one guy she was very effective to explain to me what he was going through because I don’t really know what goes on in this sort of thing."

Through outreach such as this as well as the numerous other programs spreading awareness, Campbell thinks we are starting to come around as a society to accepting mental health as a serious issue, something that was not always so.

"In those days it was never mentioned. It was considered a weakness in your character that you would find this so difficult. We are making good strides nowadays to accommodate these people and at least acknowledge them. Many well-to-do popular people have come out and acknowledged it and I think this kind of drives the idea away that you are not out of step with the world because you have depression."

And Campbell is hoping through the spreading of awareness that one day issues like mental health will not have a stigma attached to them and will be much more manageable.

Here is to hoping he is right.



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