A local suicide loss survivor has partnered with the Sarnia Community Foundation (SCF) to establish a new fund geared to support education and mental health programs in the area.
Leanne Fera has been an advocate for mental wellness since the loss of her husband, Len, to suicide in March 2022.
She later became the founder of Project Mental Wellness, a local initiative aimed at breaking down the stigma and providing resources for those who need it.
Past campaigns initiated by Project Mental Wellness included an informative short documentary, fundraisers, and a promotional beer called "Things We Should Say" launched in collaboration with Imperial City Brew House last year.
Fera said since starting Project Mental Wellness, the feedback has been positive as people seem to respond to personal experiences.
"When you have somebody that has that lived experience, it really can change the dynamics of people feeling like they're being heard," said Fera. "I may not have the same academic credentials, quite clearly, as other agencies within the city, but there is something to be said about the lived experience piece that can't come from any textbook. I think we live in a society now where people want an experience and they want to know real-life facts and what people are doing to help themselves."
Fera said partnering with SCF opens a lot of doors into the non-profit sector to further support their message.
SCF Executive Director Mike Barron agreed there is a need to enhance conversations surrounding mental health in the community and the foundation will work with Fera to promote future campaigns.
"Sometimes when we're dealing with suicide, people just don't know where to go or turn," said Barron. "So we want to make sure we open up lines that people can feel safe and comfortable to talk in."
Details about upcoming events and fundraisers can be found on the Project Mental Wellness website.
SCF has contributed over $10 million to community organizations and projects since it was established in 1983. Some endeavors have included the creation of grants, administering scholarships, and maintaining endowment funds.