The Westman Walk for Mental Wellness & Suicide Prevention is taking place this coming Saturday, May 11th in Souris.

The annual event is hosted by the Westman Mental Wellness group to raise money and awareness of the importance of mental well-being.  Their sponsorship partners allow their organization the opportunity to offer grants to local community groups that deliver needed programs and activities in support of wellness and suicide prevention.

Souris resident, Cathy Williams is Board Director and co-founder of the Westman group which started in 2014. They hosted their first walk and fundraiser in 2015.  Keeping the 'pandemic pause' in mind, this will be their 6th annual walk.

Cathy and Dave Williams lost their son, Brandt, to suicide in 2009. The Souris family struggled in their grief and founded the Westman Mental Health group to help others.  They had been attending a walk at Oakbank for suicide prevention and wanted to bring the initiative to their hometown. 

"It has really helped us by doing this," shares Cathy. "It ended up by being a part of our healing.  I always say, 'you don't get over it but you get through it'.  I don't think I'm the same person I was when this happened, but in some ways, I think I'm a better person, because it softened me.  You know, you lose somebody that close to you and you kind of look at things a little differently.  I feel that I'm honoring his memory when we do this walk."

Money raised goes towards sharing the message of the importance of mental health through a variety of ways.

 "We do a few things with the money we raise," explains Williams. "We offer grants and people in different communities in Westman if they have a project they would like to see in their community, they can apply to us for us to $2500 and we will help with an event. We also do smaller sponsorships of up to $500 if someone is wanting to get a project off the ground."

The upcoming Walk for Mental Wellness starts off at the Souris Curling Club on Saturday morning - their goal is to surpass last year's fundraiser of $18,197. 

"We had a really good walk last year, and I don't know if it was because it was just after Covid and everybody was back to getting out," shares Williams. "But I think more people are starting to realize there is a lot of mental health issues out there and it needs to be supported because it's not an isolated thing that's going on. There are a lot of issues out there."

"One thing that did come out of covid was that people are feeling more inclined to share if they are having mental health problems," continues Williams. "My message is to find someone to talk to, to share what you're feeling, get help if you need it.  Talking about it is going to get rid of some of the stigma around it because there is still some stigma around mental health. Take care of yourself. If you're having problems, seek counselling, seek a doctor, and look after yourself."

All the funds stay in Westman, notes Williams. She adds their organization acts as more of a facilitator, a liaison, to connect the resources and funds where they're needed.

"We're not mental health professionals, so when we go to these kinds of events, we promote the fact that we have money available and if there is something in your community that you would like to do you can look to us. We have resources that we have gathered from agencies that are professionals in the mental health field."

Williams adds one of the needs of the committee is to have more volunteers join their team. "We're a relatively small committee, a group of about ten members now, but there are so many projects and so much to do, we just can't do it all ourselves. So, we would really like more volunteers join us from across Westman to help us get these projects launched!"

Please listen to more with Cathy Williams below!

For more information on the upcoming Westman Walk fundraiser in Souris please click HERE!

If you are struggling with a specific mental health and feeling vulnerable, please call or text the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or click HERE!

1-888-379-7699 or 204-725-4411. This service is known as Westman Crisis Services and works with adults in the former Brandon and Assiniboine regions, who are in a mental health or psychosocial crisis. We offer two services: Crisis Stabilization Unit. Mobile Crisis Unit.  Visit their website HERE for more information.