CREATE program benefits both employees and employers

Harry Sullivan
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TRURO - Shawn MacMaster smiles softly and speaks confidently when approached by a stranger asking personal questions.
"Well, it's given me self-esteem and self- worth and I enjoy working with the patients," he says, of his volunteer efforts with patients at the Colchester Regional Hospital. "It's given me an opportunity to help other people and to make a difference."
For those involved with the CREATE Awards program at the Colchester East Hants branch of the Canadian Mental Health Program (CMHA), MacMaster's comments could easily stand out as a poster boy's response.
CREATE stands for Communities Recognizing Employers Advancement Towards Equality and MacMasters was one of a number of CMHA clients who were on hand to see their employers recognized for participation in the program.
In all, eight employers were recognized for accepting people with mental health issues into their workplaces.
Not only do the participants (some of whom are paid and some of whom serve as volunteers) provide "loyalty, persistence and trustworthiness" to the employers who have accepted them, they are also "people who genuinely want to work," said employment counsellor Daniel Vanderlans.
"When I wasn't volunteering," continued MacMaster (who suffers from depression), I was isolated at home. I didn't do anything... But I forced myself to get up and do what I had to do and when I applied for the volunteering, it gave me a sense of purpose."
It's that quest for a sense of purpose and meaning in the lives of mental health sufferers that makes the stability and responsibility of heading out to work so important, Vanderlans said. Having employers take a risk on such individuals who do prove themselves in the workplace also helps to break down "the walls of stigma" and "discrimination" that society so often places in the path of those who may be labelled as lazy.
"It's very easy to speculate why some people aren't working," he said. But for those who suffer from depression and anxiety, the cure is not as simple as being told to "just get over it and deal with it."
"The reality is that mental health and depression, anxiety, any type of imbalance in mood creates a major obstacle in the way of employment," Vanderlans said.
And that is why it is important to recognize the employers who are willing to take a chance working with mental health disabilities, Vanderlans said.
"Today is really about the employers."

Organizations: Colchester Regional Hospital

Geographic location: Colchester East Hants

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