Social enterprise aims to build mental health literacy, awareness
Article written by Kirk Starratt from the Annapolis Valley Spectator
Empowering people to help themselves means instilling a greater ability to help others.
Save Me Save We founder Junior Moaku, a fourth-year business student and Acadia University basketball player, takes this to heart.
He spent a week canvassing Wolfville area businesses and families for food and monetary donations so that he and a team of volunteers could stage the first Save Me Save We Easter Feast.
The dinner - put on by the community for the community - was held at the Wolfville Farmers Market on April 20. Up to 100 community members had an opportunity to enjoy a free turkey and chicken dinner. Donations in support of the Open Arms mission were collected at the door, with donors having their names entered into a prize raffle.
When asked what he thought about the level of support from donors and volunteers, Moaku said it was “honestly unbelievable.”
“I am so grateful and thankful for people to take time out of their Easter weekend and come and help,” he said. “Easter’s always been one of my favourite holidays because of hope and new beginnings.”
He said getting to know neighbours was a theme of the dinner and he hoped that community members enjoying the meal would feel that they are part of something.
SAVE ME SAVE WE
Save Me Save We was created to provide a supportive community for mental health advocates and survivors. It stands for peace, passion and compassion and prides itself on quality service, education and social responsibilities.
Its mission is to bring awareness to and to destigmatize misconceptions surrounding mental illness and to improve mental health literacy and proficiency.
Moaku, who is originally from Hamilton, Ontario, said he saw several of his teammates and classmates struggling with mental health concerns. He grew up with friends and family members affected by mental health issues and could recognize some of the symptoms.
Some of his friends didn’t want to talk about it, so Moaku envisaged a network of non-verbal advocates who people could approach and feel comfortable talking to about their concerns. Moaku came up with the name Save Me Save We and established a logo showing a brain inside a heart that is easily identifiable and represents mental well-being. He said the movement has been growing since.
Moaku started selling Save Me Save We t-shirts with a percentage from every sale supporting a local clinic or mental health agency, including the Kings County branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association. He then decided that they should be doing more.
“It’s about mental health literacy,” he said. “People need to be educated on what mental health really is.”
Working as a camp counsellor last summer, he saw that a lot of children have anger issues. Many felt lonely but Moaku could see that they were really pushing other kids away. This was the genesis for a program where Save Me Save We visits elementary and high schools, delivering presentations to equip young students with “emotional First Aid tools.”
This involves teaching kids the difference between daily stress and chronic stress and between being alone and loneliness, for example. The purpose is to teach them how to better recognize and manage mental health concerns later in life.
“If they can help themselves, then they can help others, which is even better,” Moaku said.
YOUNG PEOPLE TAKING ACTION
Open Arms executive director John Andrew said it’s great to see young people and student athletes such as Moaku and Boys 2 Men Mentoring founder Sehkahnee Reynolds – a former Acadia football player - using their platforms to be blessings to others.
Andrew said that perhaps loneliness is the “greatest poverty of all.” He called on those in attendance at the dinner to treat each other as family.
Reynolds said his initiative currently involves mentoring boys but he plans to expand it to include girls. He said it’s about being like a big brother to kids who don’t have a positive influence like that in their lives.
Andrew said a lack of positive male influences is a common factor when it comes to young men in particular falling through the cracks of society.