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This is how young people in Penticton are bringing awareness to mental health

Portrait of Dylan Sahara by local artist Alex Ross.
Image Credit: Alex Ross
August 22, 2014 - 12:43 PM

PENTICTON - There's a group of five Penticton 20-somethings creating a plan for a new non-profit organization to help bring support and awareness of mental health to town — because of what happened to someone they know.

They gather at a coffee shop on Main Street in downtown Penticton, their computer screens glowing, pages of notebooks turning as they shed ink and share their thoughts.

Their passion for the project was ignited by the recent death of a 21-year-old Penticton man, Dylan Sahara who committed suicide last weekend. The group’s members, Olivia Bravi, Martine Blais, Rhys Davidson, Nathania Roy and Alora Campbell, all knew Sahara and were shocked by his death — Many people close to him didn't know he had struggled with depression for years, until it finally consumed him.

“It really hit home,” said Bravi and Blais who have both experienced anxiety and depression themselves. Neither of them were satisfied with just accepting Sahara’s death so Bravi organized a balloon release, while Blais wore a homemade mental health awareness shirt to the bar.

A photo of her in the shirt was spread around social media and strangers sent her Facebook messages of support, encouragement. Others were looking for someone to talk to about their personal struggles with mental illness.

“People are so much more willing to talk to a complete stranger than someone they’re close to,” Blais said. And she’s happy to lend an ear.

The goal for the non-profit organization is to create a place where people with mental illness can feel safe and supported and not face any judgement, she said. A local counselling group has already agreed to offer free counselling services and they haven’t even finished the paperwork.

The group plans to run support groups where people can talk about anything they want and not feel pressured to share anything they’re not comfortable with, Blais said.

“It’s not a forced conversation,” Bravi said. “Say it when you want, say it if you want.”

The second goal they want to reach is to educate the public and try and erase the stigma behind mental health.

“People are so quick to judge when they don’t understand. And we all do it,” Blais said. “Why can’t it be totally normal? Why does it have to be a hush hush topic?”

They want to talk to schools, put up posters around town and spread messages on social media, blogs and websites.

This town’s been lacking young people taking initiative, and with the huge age gap in the population, more youth need to step up and make a difference in the community, Blais said.

And that’s why their initiative is so important — it will help young people with a history of mental illness get the confidence and support they need to make their own changes to the town.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Meaghan Archer at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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