Capacity for Compassion
Dr. Gerry Cooper has been involved with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) for close to 40 years in one capacity or another.
And when he returned to his hometown of Windsor in 2011, it seemed natural to become involved with the organization once again.
Cooper became an ambassador for the CMHA’s Sole Focus Project. It is an initiative aimed at raising $1.5 million to enhance and distribute mental wellness education, as well as awareness and training within the Windsor-Essex community. It also works to sustain mental health programs that are not government funded.
Currently, the campaign has raised $500,000 toward this initiative. This has been achieved with the help of their ambassadors, ranging from presidents of companies to youth within the Windsor-Essex community.
“There’s evidence that, even in terms of medical students and residents, the incidence of mental health problems is much higher than the general population, approaching 25 per cent higher.”
Initially, Cooper, his wife Sharon, and his brother agreed to take part in a billboard campaign. Cooper’s brother had been personally affected by mental health bringing the project closer to home for the entire family.
“We knew the billboard we were on was up in town, so we got in the car with my brother and drove by so he could see it. Seeing the look on his face was one of those moments in time I’ll always remember. My brother could see the true sense of having accomplished something, that he was publicly taking a role in this campaign for everyone to see,” explained Cooper.
Cooper hopes that the campaign will build awareness about mental health and remind community members about the importance of education and care for those living with a mental health issue.
Working with students, residents and physicians, Cooper believes that awareness is especially important in the medical community.
“There’s evidence that, even in terms of medical students and residents, the incidence of mental health problems is much higher than the general population, approaching 25
It is for this reason that he stresses the importance of addressing the stigma in order to overcome it and make it acceptable to talk about problems and seek help, and to not be ashamed to need help.
Cooper values volunteerism and is a strong proponent of getting involved to support community causes – whatever they may be.
“Giving back and volunteering for the community is critically important for all of us as informed community citizens in a democracy. Volunteerism and philanthropy, those are key elements in a vibrant society,” Cooper said.
It’s why he encouraged medical students to get involved with the community.
“Volunteerism and our area of medical education are things that go hand-in-hand. We encourage learners to participate in volunteerism, we look for that in aspiring medical students and I think it’s important for us to set that tone as faculty and staff and to give back to communities where we can. Volunteering is part of that,” he said.
He hopes that through the Sole Focus campaign the CMHA will have an impact on community