Susan Henderson, the executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association Colchester East Hants branch, is shown during the 2018 Women and Wellness event. This year’s event, set for Jan. 24, is the 10th anniversary of the event. Johanna Matthews – Portraits by Johanna

TRURO – Susan Henderson never imagined an event that was created 10 years ago would be a sell-out event in the years to come.

On Jan. 24, the Canadian Mental Health Association Colchester East Hants branch is hosting its 10th annual Women and Wellness event.

“We’re looking at this as a celebration of Women and Wellness in the community,” said Henderson, the local branch’s executive director. “We’ll be introducing more creativity and music in the evening.”
As in previous years, the event will feature a couple of guest speakers. This year, musician Catherine MacLellan is presenting, as is Emma Smit.

“Both of these ladies are well-known in their fields,” said Henderson. “Emma is so well-known for her talent and creative outlet, and being able to touch people’s hearts and mental health.”

Throughout the history of Women and Wellness, the event has grown and now invitations – which are free – are often hard to come by. It started out at the Marigold Cultural Centre, but quickly outgrew the 208-seat theatre and moved to the AV room at Cobequid Educational Centre.

“It’s been huge – there’s always been talk about the magic of the evening and how people in the audience are able to create connections and feel understood, connected, and supported,” Henderson said. “That’s been our goal, mental health for all.”

Henderson said the association acknowledges everyone has mental health and in need of support. Statistics say one in five people are diagnosed with a mental illness, but Henderson asks ‘what about the other four?’

“That’s why we’ve made the shift to mental health and wellness,” she said.

When the event started 10 years ago, Henderson said they had always hoped it would last.

“The reality is that mental health is a difficult subject to talk about. When we started at the Marigold, we were astonished we packed that place. We’ve seen an increase in attendance every year, so that tells us this event is something helpful and useful,” she said, adding it’s a chance for women to get dressed up and go out for an evening with friends.

“This event is working for people.”

While invitations for the event are free, donations are accepted at the event. Henderson said it’s great when people donate, but the focus remains on awareness and education.

“The community has been so generous to us as it is,” she said.

Because of community support, the mental health association branch has taken another step closer to its goal of a new home. It recently raised enough money to trigger a mortgage to purchase the former Bargain Shop building on Prince Street.

Renovations started the middle of November with demolition and leveling of the lot outside.

“It’s my understanding the renovations are progressing along as well as they can be,” Henderson said. “They’re working up in the ceiling, so we’re assuming they’re working on the roof. They’ve run into no issues that we’re aware of at this point.”

Henderson said they’re still aiming for the building to be finished at the end of May, with the hopes of hosting the branch’s annual general meeting in the new building toward the end of June.

“It’s just surreal that it’s happening,” Henderson said of the renovations.

The Women and Wellness event will see doors open at 6:15 p.m. on Jan. 24 at the school, with presentations beginning at 7 p.m. Door prizes will be given away, and each person in attendance will receive a goodie bag. The event will also feature a ‘Get-Away’ game, with cards available for $20 each.

Funds raised will go toward the Branching Out campaign in support of the new building.

Invitations to Women and Wellness are available from any committee member, or by calling 902-895-4211.