This week at ArcelorMittal Dofasco we’re doing a lot of talking. Talking about mental health and encouraging everyone to join the conversation.

Mental health morning joe

It’s mental health awareness week in Canada. We’ve joined the Not Myself Today conversation, a national workplace campaign to raise awareness of mental illness. And, on Wednesday, we joined with St. Joseph’s Healthcare to present “A Mental Health Morning.” The annual breakfast supports the Mental Health and Addiction Program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare and is an opportunity to come together to speak up for mental health.

This year’s event drew more than 400 attendees, including a special group of ArcelorMittal Dofasco employees and their family members. In addition to featuring key note speaker and Olympian Silken Laumann, St. Joseph’s also presented its Spirit of Hope Awards. Congratulations to Alex Lee, The Bishop Ryan and Cardinal Newman teams and Good Shepherd for being recognized – and thank you for the work you do in the community to bring awareness to mental health. ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s Norma Bonner (Integrated Health) was on the selection committee.

President and CEO Sean Donnelly introduced keynote speaker Silken Laumann who is also working to de-stigmatize mental health and increase our awareness. “I think it’s time we stop asking people how they are doing and talk about what’s really happening – we need deeper more meaningful dialogue,” she says.

Laumann became a household name in Canada during the lead up to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when she suffered a serious leg injury in a rowing crash during a World Cup race warm up in Germany. After having been told her rowing career was over, she persevered and competed in the Olympics 10 weeks later, securing a bronze medal.

“In a moment, I went from being a Canadian athlete doing my own thing on Elk Lake in Victoria, to being a household name.”

After her athletic career, she turned to personal appearances and speaking. “There was a small window of opportunity and you have to take it,” she says. But there was more to her story. “I was the girl who won a medal with a broken leg,” she says. “But how can I tell the story about how dreams can be achieved without telling the whole story. To do that you have to be vulnerable and vulnerability is not a weakness…vulnerability is a strength.”

The whole story included the end of a marriage and a difficult and abusive childhood due to a mother with an undiagnosed mental illness.

Of life she says, “We all seem to be looking for the perfect plan. But there is no perfect plan; it’s just whatever opportunities are in front of you.”

Laumann’s retelling of her life journey was engaging and authentic. And she wasn’t just talking – she was connecting and inspiring others to step up and join her. We’re grateful to Silken, St. Joseph’s Healthcare and every individual and organization that is working to reject stigma and re-imagine care for mental illnesses.