Anchor and Wings, a mutual help group and living environment for those dealing with mental health difficulties, held an open house and barbecue activity on May 6. This allowed over 60 people to discover the workshops and services offered by the Ormstown-based non-profit organization.
The event took place within the context of Mental Health Week and was one of two activities organized to raise awareness of the different mental health resources available in the Valley. The second activity offered locals an opportunity to enjoy a coffee and chat with a police officer at the Galeries d’Ormstown shopping centre.
Visitors to Anchor and Wings were encouraged to mingle with members of the group and were sent off on self-guided tours of the centre in the form of a “treasure hunt.” Guests were presented with a questionnaire to complete by looking for clues located throughout the two-storey building.
Those who were able to find all the answers had their names added to a draw that took place at the end of the day. The prizes were three gift baskets of goods provided by 16 local businesses and sponsors. The winners were Geovania De Mesquita, Mélanie Borduas, and Lise Patenaude.
For Geneviève Couture, the director of Anchor and Wings, the open house event was a huge success. “We were looking for a way to reach those who were curious, but who were hesitating to come on their own,” she says. “The centre is open to all those with mental health difficulties. It is a welcoming environment where people do not feel judged.”
A second family
“We have been here for 30 years, and there are those who do not know we exist,” Couture says, while admitting they also wanted to break down some of the taboos around mental health and correct any misunderstandings within the community about the role of the centre. “We are not an institution,” she explains, and describes Anchor and Wings as a welcome centre for those who are struggling with mental health issues or have done so in the past.
“A lot of people say we are like a second family,” she says, noting that all services are bilingual and available for those 18 and older. The centre offers a monthly program of diverse activities, workshops, events, and support group meetings, including music jams and art sessions, as well as more serious discussions on medication, empathy, and the differences between mental health and mental illness.
Currently, the centre has around 40 members. “There is so much to do here, and you have access to everything you need,” says Jan-Michael Soucy, a centre volunteer and member. “The social workers are here and on the floor, and they are always here to listen,” he explains, adding that he wished more people knew about the activities and services that are offered. Soucy wants them to know they have access to help through the centre.
Couture says that COVID-19 really impacted Anchor and Wings, as so many in-person services were affected. “At the start of the pandemic, we received a lot of phone calls. There was a lot of anxiety and stress,” she says, noting they were not able to accommodate all the members at the same time, and this compromised the convivial atmosphere they work so hard to maintain. “It is starting to come back now,” she says, noting that while some members have left over the past two years, it is hoped some will come back and that new members will join now that the public health measures have been lifted.