Olympian pedals mental health in Lloyd

By Geoff Lee

March 21, 2017 12:00 AM

Six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes could help put Lloydminster on the podium for mental health accomplishments.
The Lloydminster Region Health Foundation will build on two presentations by Hughes on mental health at the Vic Juba Community Theatre Wednesday with a brainstorming session on a long term mental health strategy on March 24.
“It’s in our guiding principles that we are going to advocate for enhancement of health in our community,” said Health Foundation CEO, Wendy Plandowski.
“So we’re bringing together about 20 people to sit down and talk about what’s next.”
The strategy session will be hosted by the Thorpe Recovery Centre fresh from an event called “Clara Hughes: Her Story Behind The Spotlight” presented by the Health Foundation and Investors Group.
Hughes will speak Wednesday afternoon with high school students at Vic Juba about overcoming her own mental health challenges to medal in Olympic cycling and speedskating.
It’s aimed at helping to break down stigmas associated with mental health.
Hughes will speak to the public at 7 p.m. to an expected sellout audience of 500 people with the proceeds to support mental health through the Health Foundation.
“She has good name recognition in the community so we aren’t surprised people are wanting to come and hear her speak,” said Plandowski.
“To work with Investors Group—I think without their commitment to mental health and the project, we would never be able to bring her in.”
The funding to bring Hughes to Lloydminster comes from $25,000 raised from a 2015 Investors Group charity golf tournament.
Hughes came to Lloydminster in 2014 as part of her 12,000-kilometre bike ride across Canada to talk about mental health.
That ride, named “Clara’s Big Ride for Mental Health,” is a part of “Bell’s Let’s Talk”  campaign, a national initiative launched in 2010 aimed at fighting the stigma surrounding mental health.
Plandowski said Hughes is helping to put the spotlight on some mental health deficiencies in the community.
“As a community, we don’t have any acute mental care beds,” she said.
“If you have an acute mental need you have to leave our community; we’re a pretty big community for that to happen so we’re working on a long term strategy for that.”
The upcoming brainstorming session is based on a leaders’ group that Plandowski relied when she headed the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce in 2010.
“I felt there was a need to bring together the same sort of people to talk about different issues in our community health wise,” she said.
The meeting will include leaders from organizations such as the school divisions, Lakeland College, the City of Lloydminster and business owners to come up with a long term mental health strategy.
The Health Foundation is also floating the idea of restyling the Clara Hughes event into an annual one with different speakers as mental health has become a public priority.
“I think there’s a realization in society that your physical health is dependent on your mental health in some ways,” said Plandowski.
The Hughes project helped the Health Foundation to launch its ongoing Community Mindfulness Projects in February with free mental health focus sessions at The Root.
“It’s one of those things where people are realizing it starts with themselves,” said Plandowski.
“We are trying to give people tools to be introduced to something that they can start to practice.”
Mindfulness sessions on Mondays and Thursdays are targeted to adults, teens and children with varied attendance in the four month long program.
“I think the room holds about eight-10 and we’re not quite at capacity, but we have had some sessions that have been pretty full,” said Plandowski.

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