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Community Builder: Healthy minds peer support: turning ideas into action

And for Sandi Taylor and Greg Kovacs, their idea came to be three years ago.
(from left to right) Sandi Taylor and Greg Kovacs from Healthy Minds Peer Support receive a grant from Carmen Wheatley from the Fort St. James Community Foundation Society.

Barbara Latkowski

Caledonia Courier

It all started with an idea.

And for Sandi Taylor and Greg Kovacs, their idea came to be three years ago.

“We decided then that there was a definite need for peer support within our community and both Greg and I have always been huge advocates of mental health and addiction,” Taylor said.

“We wanted to do something.”

This something turned out to be “Healthy Minds Peer Support” in Fort St. James.

“I really believe in the power of peer support. People dealing with mental health issues or addiction are often isolated. So, for us, it was all about socialization. That was the motive,” Kovacs said.

Peer support is now being recognized by the World Health Organization and the Canadian Mental Health Association as being one of the biggest tools for assisting those with mental health issues and wellbriety according to Taylor.

The group holds weekly meetings every Monday at 7 p.m. at Stuart Lake Hospital in Fort St. James.

“Sometimes we have guest speakers attend the meetings also. This can vary from doctors or other specialists who offer information on various topics such as meditation and relaxation. We try to offer different ways of coping for those who attend,” Taylor said.

“The meetings are very low-key,” Kovacs said. “It’s a place for people to socialize and not feel isolated.”

Along with regular meetings, Taylor and Kovacs have also opened a community garden welcome for anyone and everyone to enjoy.

“We applied for a grant through Northern Health and through this we were able to obtain the property behind District Office,” Taylor said.

The garden produces fresh organic food for participants and local charities but the main goal is to provide a safe and serene space, particularly those who suffer from mental health issues and addiction.

The garden has been a huge success so far with various community members lending a hand, from schools to families.

For both Taylor and Kovacs, it’s all about building community, reducing isolation and participating in a healthy activity.

“It’s also about inclusion,” Taylor said. “The garden is for everyone. It’s for people to feel like they are part of the community and that they are welcome.”

With a beautiful view by the lake, Taylor and Kovacs are thrilled with the garden and all of the support given by the community.

“We are so happy with this space and it means so much to us that the community has a healthy spot to visit and enjoy,” Taylor said.

“This is our passion, to be able to give back to the community, to help improve it and also to get rid of the stigma associated with mental health and addiction.”