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Better mental health by talking it out

Feelings of isolation are a recurring theme of the pandemic, intensified by the most recent lockdown, for instance. To help counter that, Canal Pursuit Productions is preparing to run a virtual discussion series under the name ‘People Talks,’ providing an avenue for people to discuss their lives, understanding they are not alone.

Elmira’s Clay Williams is one of the organizers bringing the virtual series to the region, using Instagram as its format.

An avid runner and mental health advocate, Williams has been taking part in runs as a fundraising effort, but says he wanted to expand beyond that. The idea for the talks stemmed from his participation in similar events elsewhere.

“I’ve been doing these runs for a few years. And, this past year, I thought there’s more that I can do than just running to raise a little bit of money – there must be something more that I can do to try and help raise a little more awareness. So, with that in mind, I’ve done a few talks with a friend in Guelph (Lisa Browning), who hosted monthly talks for small groups, and she would rotate topics throughout the year… with that experience kind of in my back pocket, I thought, ‘well, why can’t we do something like that locally in Elmira, Kitchener-Waterloo area?’ And that was kind of the start – getting ordinary people to talk about their experiences,” he explained.

Helping Williams bring the series to life are two of his friends, Maria Michel and Deidre Large, who are associates through the world of running and mental health.

Each episode is expected to be between 20-40 minutes in length, and ‘People’s Talks’ are requesting those interested in tuning in to submit questions for each week’s host to create more conversation and dialogue. 

The speakers are mainly geared around the subjects of mental health and sickness.

“There’s a bit of a variety. The main thoughts behind the talk are loosely related to mental health and to sickness, not necessarily both at the same time, although they could be. So, we have already had a few people who are interested in talking, who are struggling with and have struggled for a long time with depression and anxiety disorder, and have kind of developed their own tools or coping mechanisms,” said Williams.”They’re willing to share about their struggles, as well as some of the solutions, some of the tools that they’ve developed on their own, some of the help that they found, to be able to make it through. Also, we’ll have some professional people who are working in the healthcare field.”

This kind of event is has become even more relevant during the pandemic.

“The original inception was just wanting to help out a little bit more or do a little bit more than just raising funds. And it was, I guess, a little bit was my own desire to talk with people a little bit more. We’ve been isolated in the world – social distancing has an effect. We’re physically distancing, for sure, but we seem to be social distancing, as well. So, I think that that dynamic has really exacerbated the problems that some people are already struggling with, and introduces new problems to people who were not struggling before.

The series is free, but donations towards the Mood Disorders Society’s Move for Mental Health Campaign are welcomed. For more information, follow Canal Pursuit on Twitter and Instagram to tune in on March 14 at 3 p.m. for the first edition of the series. 

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