Health and wellness were on display

Deb Hutchison, Petra Behrens and Scott Richards and their pets make up an organization called Therapeutic Paws of Canada. They bring their pets into nursing homes, hospitals and schools to relieve stress and bring people joy. They were among the vendors on at the Mind, Body, Spirit Wellness Fair at The Aud in Simcoe on March 23. Photo/Postmedia Network

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Teaching people they can contribute to strong mental health in a variety of ways was the focus of the Mind Body Spirit Wellness Fair at The Aud on March 23.

The weekend fair in Simcoe marked the 10th anniversary of the event, organized and held by the Achieve Mental Health Wellness and Recovery Centre, a program of the Community Addiction and Mental Health Services of Haldimand Norfolk.

“We started out focusing strictly on what mental health industries are in the community that provide direct services to people with mental health issues,” said Susan Roach, program manager of the Wellness and Recovery Centre. “But there is a lot we can do to improve our mental health.”

That was in evidence last Saturday by the number and broad range of wellness fair presenters. Among the 102 vendors were those representing social service agencies, service clubs, all types of health care, those promoting physical health, and hobby groups.

Roach said physical activity can be a stress buster and help alleviate depression, as can taking up a hobby. Representatives promoting tai chi, pole walking and yoga were all at the fair, along with the Norfolk Hooks and Books Crochet Club.

Sarah Judd is a local farmer who operates Meadow Lynn Market Garden in Simcoe. Her veggie box program delivers fresh produce from her garden to 75 families on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

Recent studies have connected a healthy diet to a lower risk of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

“I try to teach people about seasonal eating,” said Judd. “I add recipes to the boxes.”

Several dogs were attracting non-stop attention at the fair. The animals were brought in by Therapeutic Paws of Canada.

“We go into nursing homes, hospitals and schools, usually during exam time,” said Petra Behrens, who operates the volunteer program with Scott Richards.

The couple has a son with special needs who benefitted from the company of the family pets. Behrens wanted to use the animals to help others.

“We make people smile,” she said. “We get to hear a lot of stories from people who talk about dogs they’ve had.”

Trisha Schotsch, a program assistant at the Wellness and Recovery Centre, had a collection of framed photographs, taken by centre members, for sale at the fair. Proceeds from the sale of photos is split between the centre, the photo club and the photographer.

“I think being part of the photo club gives them a real sense of pride and accomplishment,” said Schotsch. “It gives them something to focus, a distraction from their everyday problems.”

Roach said she’s learned to cope with her own mental health issues and wants to help others do the same.

“I still get up in the morning and have the illness,” she said. “But it doesn’t rule me. I want people to know that they can do more than what their illness is allowing them to do right now.”

 

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