Banff set to host its first-ever Mental Health Week

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Banff to host first Mental Health Week to educate public on resources
With mental health concerns on the rise in the Bow Valley, those on the front lines are creating a week-long event to support those in need. As Jayme Doll reports, the resources are there but those struggling don’t know how to ask for help. – May 3, 2024

The town of Banff will be hosting its first-ever Mental Health Week, which aims to fight against the stigmatization of mental illnesses in the Bow Valley.

Makaylah Rogers struggled with their mental health soon after moving to Canmore from Australia in 2016.

“The mountains are some of the most beautiful things you can lay your eye upon and that gave me a lot of hope,” they said.” But it was quite isolating,  it felt like well everything must be great because the mountains look so good,” said Rogers.

The excitement was quickly overshadowed by the percolating pain they were desperate to abandon over the ocean on the flight over, but it only grew more dire.

“I felt lonely. I was struggling with childhood trauma. I was struggling with suicidal ideation every day,” they said. ” I didn’t have anyone that I could talk to … I just felt completely empty like I didn’t have any substance or an identity.”

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Rogers spent most of their first years in Canmore working remotely, alone in their apartment. They were seeing a therapist but untrusting and unknowing of where to turn to for community support. Makaylah decided to create their own safe space in an unlikely place: a donut shop.

“The circle of the donut feels very symbolic to me it feels like community it feels like coming together, and we are better when we are together,” they said.  “It feels like wholeness from my healing journey from trauma, my coming out as non-binary my being able to be my full self,” said Rogers.

Rogers and their wife started Frankie D’s Donuts. The business rolls out more than just delicious treats but serves as a path to connect with other people through lived experience, bonding over donuts and discussions. Rogers is now helping to bridge the gap they once felt and so many others still feel in the Bow Valley.

“For many here it’s their first time from home and Mom is a long way away,” said Margie Smith, site administrator at Banff’s Mineral Springs Hospital. “There are some really challenging pieces of food security, housing security, friends, the deep connections people have at home, they’ve lost that,” said Smith.

And while Smith said the Bow Valley has ample resources to help those struggling with mental health issues, they often don’t know how to navigate through them.

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“There’s a growing concern, what we are hearing from our community is that they don’t know where the resources are, and we are trying to change that,” said Lori Bayne, Banff Mineral Springs Hospital community board chair.

Starting May 6, Banff is hosting its first-ever Mental Health Week, thrusting all its tools into the public eye. Dozens of events are planned across town including coffee with RCMP officers, community dinners, group discussions with experts, children and seniors activities. The hope is to connect people and more importantly get them talking about mental health.

It was the idea of Banff resident Dr. Shakil Amin after suffering from a mental health crisis.

“I didn’t choose this journey. I’ve been put onto it and I have to go through this journey there’s no way I can walk out from this journey,” said Amin whose life ground to a halt in 2016 with the death of his soon-to-be 5-year-old son after a three-year cancer battle.

Riddled with grief and crippling post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, Dr. Amin spent months mostly laying in bed and stopped practicing medicine.

“I feel like a failure as a professional, a failure as a father and a husband because my job is to protect my family,” he said, adding after his son died he couldn’t remember anything he had practiced as a doctor of internal medicine — it was washed away by the trauma of his son.

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“Inside I was saying I am a man I can handle it, I am a physician I know certain times you don’t have control of your mind there is help there, I would absolutely tell my patients the same if they are going through this, there is help, there is medication for it, treat it. But myself no,” he said.

Three years later he finally decided to take his own advice and bravely reached out for help. He said regardless of who you are, where you come from or what you are dealing with, he wants others to know that they are not alone. He hopes Mental Health Week will be a starting point to ease the stigma and set people on a brighter path.

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