It was an unusual format to the 10th annual Champions of Mental Health banquet.
Normally, the banquet has been a mainstay of Mental Health Week, closing out the week with an awards presentation saluting those who made a positive difference for mental health in the community.
However, it has been decided to conclude the annual event with this year’s banquet, due mainly to increasing challenges of organizing the gala every year.
While this was not mentioned explicitly Saturday night at the Western Development Museum, the whole event nevertheless had the feel of a farewell.
“This is really a bittersweet year for members of the Champions of Mental Health awards committee,” said Linda Shynkaruk, director of Saskatchewan Hospital, in her remarks.
There was also a departure in the awards presentation itself. Instead of handing out several awards to individuals or businesses, this time Kathy Watson stood to announce there would be only one award winner this year.
The “champions of mental health 2019 are you, the citizens of North Battleford, the town of Battleford and surrounding rural municipalities,” she said. “Congratulations and well done.”
The community was being recognized, said Watson, for “over a century of excellence in mental health care.” In particular, Watson pointed to reducing the stigma, for advocating, educating, for being a supportive community and for normalizing core mental health care.
“From this supportive past, our communities will continue this practice for excellence in mental health care into the decades to come.”
Watson also paid tribute to the history of the Champions of Mental Health event itself, A main reason why it was created was “to challenge and change the negative image of mental health care in the Battlefords by recognizing and drawing attention to what was positive in mental health care and mental health care practice in the area.”
A total of 48 “Champions of Mental Health” awards were handed out over the past ten years. Watson noted these represent just a “small number when we think of the tremendous support for mental health in the Battlefords and surrounding area.”