CAMH announced as CTC’s 2012 Walk-a-thon Charity

By: Piragal Thiru

Members of the Tamil Canadian community engaged in an open dialogue regarding mental health and addiction issues in the community. This discussion took place at a campaign launch event for the annual Tamil Canadian Walk hosted by the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC).

The event follows an earlier announcement by CTC spokesperson David Poopalapillai that the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is the selected charity for CTC's 2012 walk-a-thon. The launch was kicked off by Hon. Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development and Innovation and an avid supporter of the annual event since inception, as well as in the presence of Soo Wong, MPP for Scarborough-Agincourt. "Mental health is an important subject that affects all of us directly or indirectly and I am pleased to see that CAMH is the charity for this year's walk and I thank CTC for taking the leadership on this important initiative" said Minister Duguid.

"One in five Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime and the remaining four will have a friend, family member or colleague with mental illness" said Dr. Priya Jeganathan, Co-chair of the Annual Tamil Canadian Walk campaign.

Service providers who work closely with the Tamil community continue to point out both the impact and magnanimity of the issue within the Tamil community – the incidence of mental illness and addiction is largely triggered by the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka. Other impact factors include migration and challenges around settling in a new environment. Stigma and taboo-ism has made it difficult for service agencies to assess the need of the community and plan culturally sensitive services and programs to address the issue. Resulting from this challenge, Youthlink, a Toronto based organization recently completed a survey of the Scarborough Tamil community’s needs around mental health and addiction. Findings of the report are expected to be released this summer.

The enriched open dialogue and the willingness of participants to share personal stories granted a number of participating medical and sector professionals an opportunity to elaborate on how to identify symptoms of mental health, provide support and seek help. "This is an important issue in our community and events as such provide a platform to start a dialogue and certainly pave way for removal of stigma, allowing further discussion in the future" said Mathura Thiagarajah, a School Settlement Worker in the Scarborough area.

"CAMH is culturally adapting its practice and technology to make the treatments culturally sensitive and competent" said Akwatu Khenti, Director of International Health Programs at CAMH. "We welcome this effort by Canadian Tamil Congress, not only to raise money, but more importantly to raise awareness around mental health which will create a healthy future for all of us" Mr. Khenti added.

CAMH is also well known for its work globally on mental health initiatives, providing clinical training and education in several countries including Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico, China, India and Sri Lanka.

For more information on CAMH and its services, visit www.camh.net. The charity walk will take place at Thomson Park in Scarborough on Sunday, September 16th. To participate in the walk or to obtain more details on the campaign, visit www.canadiantamilcongress.ca.

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