ARTHUR – Myrna Hutchison says a recent personal accolade is confirmation of the local support her family and friends have received in their efforts to end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
“We feel we’ve got Arthur and the surrounding community behind us,” Hutchison said one day after being named Arthur’s Outstanding Citizen on Nov. 6.
“People are stepping up and taking notice of the work we’re doing.”
The award, annually presented by the Arthur and District Chamber of Commerce, recognizes Hutchison’s role in helping to raise awareness – as well as much needed funds – for various mental health initiatives.
“I was surprised, shocked, honoured – just a mix of emotions,” Hutchison said of her reaction to the announcement.
“It is a very special award to receive for sure … I accepted it on behalf of all of us who are doing this important work.”
Mary Schmidt, past president of the chamber of commerce, lauded Hutchison’s many contributions.
“Myrna has gone above and beyond,” Schmidt told the Advertiser. “She has done a lot to promote awareness of mental health issues, especially for youth, so they feel more comfortable talking about things.”
Less than five months after her son Steven took his own life in February 2013, Hutchison’s family and friends helped organize the #GetInTouchForHutch fundraiser.
In two years the event, which includes a 5km run/walk and National Lacrosse League charity game, has raised more than $125,000 for initiatives such as Wes for Youth Online, Kids Help Phone and the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Youth Engagement Projects.
This year’s event also raised some extra money to help fund local “safe talk training sessions” for local lacrosse and hockey organizations, set to begin in the new year.
The #GetInTouchForHutch committee, which Hutchison said includes about 75 volunteers on race day plus additional help with other events, has also organized fundraisers in conjunction with the Elora Mohawks, for whom Steven played, and the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm.
Hutchison has also worked with the Suicide Awareness Council of Wellington Dufferin to recognize World Suicide Prevention Day in September and she was instrumental in helping to install board signs and dressing room posters at the Mount Forest and Arthur arenas to assist those battling mental health issues.
She has also worked closely with Wellington County’s Safe Communities committee to address the committee’s priorities, notably self harm.
“She definitely deserves to win the Outstanding Citizen Award,” said Schmidt, summarizing Hutchison’s “continual hard work.”
Hutchison said she has received great feedback about the award and her group’s work to help end the stigma surrounding mental health.
“It’s still a difficult topic to broach in conversation … but the more we’re out there talking about it, the more comfortable people will be with opening up,” she said.
Hutchison noted the suicides of Robin Williams and OHL player Terry Trafford this year have brought a lot exposure to the issue of depression and self harm (the OHL recently launched a league-wide mental health program).
But Hutchison hopes the local group’s efforts can help with all mental health issues – not just those serious enough to possibly lead to suicide.
“We’re trying to find new and fun and interesting ways to spread the message,” she said of engaging local residents, notably youths.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Hutchison is currently working on a Wes for Youth charity hockey game in Durham next month, and she hopes safe talk sport training sessions will run in January.
And of course, the third annual #GetInTouchForHutch will take place in late June.