Jim Weir and Paula Reaume-Zimmer at Huron Oaks Golf Club. July 22, 2019. (BlackburnNews photo by Colin Gowdy)

Mike Weir launches drive for youth mental health

Bright’s Grove golf star Mike Weir has launched a campaign to raise money for a youth mental health facility in Sarnia-Lambton.

The eight-time PGA Tour winner and 2003 Masters Champion wants to raise at least $400,000 through the Chip-In-Challenge for Mental Health.

Donations are being accepted online at mikeweir.com and there’ll be fundraising events including the Mike Weir Par 3 Challenge for Mental Health September 19 at Huron Oaks Golf Club.

The Mike Weir Foundation has pledged to match donations up to $200,000 for an Access Open Minds facility for youth aged 11 to 25.

Mike’s brother Jim and community healthcare partners gathered at Huron Oaks Golf Club Monday morning for the campaign launch.

“It’s almost like 7 out of 10 people that we’d speak to have been affected by children and adolescence mental health or addiction,” said Jim Weir. “Mike’s still very connected to the community, even though he lives in Utah, and he said we really need to do something — let’s come up with a plan, let’s get the right people and get the community around it.”

Bluewater Health Mental Health & Addictions Vice President Paula Reaume-Zimmer said they hope to have the facility operational by next summer.

“We don’t want it dragged out. We know the need is immediate, and as we can see, there’s lots of community buy-in and support, so we want to take advantage of that.”

Reaume-Zimmer said the centre would be similar to the Access Open Minds facility in Chatham-Kent, which has been operating for three years.

“Through the process of the three years, we’ve actually increased our access to more than 60 per cent of the youth, and we’re also demonstrating that the younger individuals are coming to a site like this, so the sooner we can help, the better. Individuals under the age of 16 are starting to increasingly reach out to a site like Access Open Minds.”

Reaume-Zimmer said more than 70 per cent of onset of mental illness happens in your younger years, so the importance of getting involved sooner in any type of treatment helps to divert the mental illness from escalating.

“It also helps create copping skills that we know we will need through our adult years as well. The centre will be a very youth-centric space where youth would feel engaged and welcomed, and more likely to participate in their treatment, which then improves their quality of life and mental health care.”

Reaume-Zimmer said the centre will be supported by traditional and non-traditional partners that help youth be successful as a young person, including St. Clair Child and Youth Services, Canadian Mental Health Association, along with Ontario Works, both local education boards, youth diversion programs, and others.

Site selection for the new facility still has to take place.