Local woman organizing ‘open forum’ on mental health issues

Sarnia Speaks: Mental Health will explore issues faced by 'more people than you might realize'

It was when Danielle Cooper was attending Lambton College that she was first diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder, which lead to difficulty with classes and doing poorly at school, something she sought treatment for and received treatment.

Last year, some of those issues resurfaced when she started a new job, a likely trigger being the change itself.

When she talked to someone about the feelings she was having, something clicked: the fact that she wasn’t alone in those feelings.

That “breakthrough” was so profound that Cooper decided to organize an upcoming open forum on mental health issues.

The event, Sarnia Speaks: Mental Health, will be held on March 31 at the Sarnia Public Library Theatre. It represents an opportunity for people like Cooper to explore issues they might have otherwise thought they faced on their own.

Cooper has organized a group of panelists who will tell their own stories about facing mental health issues, including Tara Tourque, who advocates for cystic fibrosis after having a double-lung transplant, local broadcaster Tony Frangis, Kyle McVittie and Lila Bruyere.

A Facebook page has been organized for the what Cooper hopes will be an ongoing series facing issues of importance to the community.

Cooper calls the March 31 event a discussion about the “nitty gritty, day-to-day struggles of living with a mental illness.”

The open dialogue is intended, she says, “to be a safe space for anybody who wants to listen, contribute or learn.”

Even organizing the event came with its own set of worries. “I thought, what if no one comes,” says Cooper. “But then I was told, if only two people show up, those are the two people who needed to hear what we had to say.”

Sarnia Speaks: Mental Health runs from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 31. There is no cost to attend and no RSVP required.

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