Local business helps ‘craft’ mental health awareness initiative

"Things We Should Say" craft beer. (Photo courtesy of Project Mental Wellness via Facebook)

A Sarnia woman, who is grieving the loss of her husband, is using her voice to break the silence surrounding mental health and is partnering with others in the community to get across the message.

Leanne Fera lost her husband, Len, on March 23, 2022.

During the early stages of her grief, Fera had gifted “Mental Health Matters” shirts to teachers and that later morphed into Project Mental Wellness. By selling hundreds of shirts, Fera was able to donate $5,800 to the Sarnia-Lambton Suicide Prevention Committee.

“Then by the fall, I thought, ‘I need to keep going with this. I need to keep using my voice and talking about mental health and suicide awareness. People need to hear about it. People need to know what’s going on in the community, in every community, and not be afraid to talk about it.'”

After seeing a similar initiative successfully carried out in the U.S., Fera approached Rina Barker of Imperial City Brew House about brewing a beer for mental health awareness.

“Without hesitation, they said ‘absolutely,'” said Fera. “It’s been probably seven or eight months in the making, just in terms of figuring out what it needs to look like, designing logos. … Essentially, at the end of the day, if people think this is about alcohol, they’re missing the point.”

The beer’s logo includes a phone number for Talk Suicide Canada.

“If one person calls, our work is done, that’s all that matters,” she said.

Fera said there’s a demographic of men, between the ages of 30 and 60, who “fall through the cracks” and this initiative is specific to eliminating the stigma and cultivating a conversation for them.

Pre-launch event at Imperial City Brew House. Mike and Rina Barker, Leanne Fera, and Corey Leckie. March 22, 2023. (Photo by Natalia Vega)

Pre-launch event at Imperial City Brew House. Mike and Rina Barker, Leanne Fera, and Corey Leckie. March 22, 2023. (Photo by Natalia Vega)

A report released in 2022 by Statistics Canada showed that suicide rates among men were approximately three times higher compared to women, based on data collected from 2017 to 2019.

A private pre-launch event was held on Wednesday with community advocates and first responders.

The official launch, which is sold out, on March 25, sold out within hours, and tickets for a second event have been selling quickly as well.

Fera said events will include live music and meaningful discussions. There will also be a live screening of a short documentary about mental health, done in partnership with Frameworks Media Inc., on Saturday.

“This is going to be the biggest therapy session Lambton County has ever seen,” chuckled Fera.

Money raised through the fundraising initiative with Imperial City Brew House will go toward community programming, such as counselling, workshops, and awareness campaigns.