Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is a North West Vancouver charity that supports people living with mental illness and addictions. We spoke with Julia Kaisla, their Executive Director, to find out more about them.
Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.
CMHA North West Vancouver supports people living with mental illness and addictions through client-centred, community-based programs and services.
What problem does it aim to solve?
We aim to help people and families who feel socially isolated or are experiencing barriers move towards a place of well-being.
When did you start/join it?
I joined CMHA NWV as the Executive Director in 2017.
What made you want to get involved?
Prior to working for our North West Vancouver branch, I worked at the provincial level of CMHA. I wanted to work more directly with communities. I believe wholeheartedly in our vision to create mental health for all.
What was the situation like when you started?
When I started at CMHA, we were in a place of transition. I helped the organization move towards a place of community engagement so we could grow in a way that was aligned with the community’s needs.
How has it changed since?
Today, we are in a place of significant growth. We are enhancing and expanding our pathways to well-being so that everyone in our communities sees themselves in our programs and finds what they need to move to a place of positive mental health.
What more needs to be done?
We need more community ambassadors to join us to advocate for change. Community mental health care doesn’t receive the same funding levels as health care more generally but we are the missing link in making sure people are heard, supported and connected.
How can our readers help?
They can become a monthly donor to support CMHA. They can regularly review our job postings and apply to join us. They can become volunteers and give their time to run our food program, provide community support through our mental health resource library, and offer their skills to host a weekly social support group. And at home, they can initiate or continue conversations about mental health with their loved ones.
Do you have any events coming up?
We just wrapped up mental health week but we are continuing to celebrate our local mental health ambassadors and asking our community members to celebrate those who have been a support for them during the past two years by posting photos of them holding hands-on social media and tagging the campaign #TogetherNorthShore.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
I’m on the board of the Aboriginal Mothers Centre and I love it very much.