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Meet Charlene Sitar

Charlene Sitar is a community animator for Hinton, Alberta.

The Collaborative Process

Collaboration and working together are two key themes that stood out when speaking to Charlene. Charlene acknowledged the importance of a variety of professionals coming together in order to offer different perspectives, “the impact of the collaboration is that you have many voices, who are working on the same thing and each one of those voices comes from a different perspective.” Charlene prides having individuals from different backgrounds and demographics allowing the community to have a varied representation.

“We all have mental health”

There seems to be a misconception that only those who struggle with mental health should be advocates for mental health. Charlene explains how the stigma amongst those who believe they are not impacted by mental health needs to end, “until we can break down stigma in our community about what mental health is and what it isn’t and make people aware that every one of us has mental health, it’s harder to get just your average person involved in the conversation about mental health because it doesn’t necessarily affect them, it affects someone else.”

Charlene is a firm believer that one member’s mental well-being impacts the broader community, “the more mentally well we are collectively as a community, the better off we are as individual community members.”

Mental Health Continuum Model

Charlene recognizes that there is change within the community in acknowledging that everyone has mental health. The introduction of the mental health continuum model has helped to increase awareness and reinforce that all individuals have mental health and fall somewhere on this continuum. The mental health continuum is an opportunity for individuals to check in with themselves and recognize what they need. Charlene sees this as a step in the right direction, “people are starting to take the time to listen to their mental health, read more about mental health, and access resources that are being offered in the community.”

Our Community from a Mental Health Lens

There is an understanding that rural mental health has always been lacking in terms of services not just specific to mental health but other services as well. Community input sessions in Hinton have uncovered that male mental health is not well supported in rural Alberta however they have also identified strengths the community holds that were a surprise to even Charlene, “one of the things was about our local grocery store that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When it’s the only place for someone to go at two o’clock in the morning, to buy a carton of milk, or just connect with a store clerk, or see someone that they know instead of sitting in their apartment, not doing well, it’s one of those places that people can go to get away from that feeling of loneliness and isolation. I never looked at it in that light.” Community input sessions have really allowed us to see strengths within the community in supporting mental health and also uncovered gaps that need to be filled.

The Mental Health Conversation & Advice for Animators

Charlene recognizes with all the information around mental health that is circulating, it can be overwhelming. COVID has served as a bit of a reminder that we all can struggle with mental health no matter who you are. As animators, Charlene stresses the importance of being patient and also acknowledging one’s own mental health needs. Mental health messaging is not meant to be overwhelming however with all the resources out there, it can make it challenging for individuals to know where to start. Patience is key and recognizing what the community needs is important as an animator.