Thursday, September 28, 2023
September 28, 2023

William’s story illustrates impacts of Mental Wellness Initiative

First in a series of awareness-raising stories from Salt Spring’s Mental Wellness Initiative. This is called William’s Story, written by William MacPherson.

I didn’t know I had a chip on my shoulder when I began my journey with the Mental Wellness Initiative (MWI).

I was doing some volunteering when I found out that the Salt Spring Health Advancement Network (SSHAN) was working on a mental health project. This is where I met David Norget and got involved with the MWI.

For the last 20 years I had been focused on understanding why I was mentally ill, determined to correct the imbalances and become a force for healing in the world.

I imagined I was a good collaborator. I didn’t realize how much I had to learn about working with people. I wanted to talk. Talk for all the times I wasn’t heard. The MWI is where I learned to listen.

This became possible initially because the pace of the group was slower. But I’m a doer, I wanted to proclaim! Little did I know that listening with your whole body is a superpower, and the quality of the attention we pay opens up healing potentials. Learning to really pay attention would open up opportunities for me to work in a new profession.

I didn’t recognize how many coping strategies I employed to compensate for not feeling safe with people. The MWI puts participants’ safety first and it was experiencing this safety, and the relationships that developed, that gave me the confidence to step way outside my comfort zone and accept a position as a harm reduction peer support worker at Salt Spring Community Services.

I didn’t know if I could hold a job. My neurodivergence made me feel like I needed to do things my way. But my new work supported my growing pains just as the MWI supported my spirit. I discovered what a great privilege it is to hold space for people. My job started at 18 hours a week and a year later I was working full time. I found myself collaborating with the RCMP, with the staff of Mental Health and Substance Use, as well as colleagues from a variety of programs at Community Services. So much became possible as I learned how to really listen and be collaborative.

It was the safety and support the MWI provided that allowed me to take a chip off my shoulder. Safety allowed me to humble myself. To stop trying to prove to everyone that I had value. To build a sense of self that replaced the arrogance that I had used to defend against my vulnerability. To become a better version of myself.

The MWI is currently fundraising in the community. We are asking for your help.

These are some ways you can help:

1) You can volunteer.

• Become a goodwill Ambassador (two hours per week paired with another person in the Ambassador Program).

• Consider donating your administrative skills to our Volunteer Counselling Project (one to two hours per week).

• If you are a mental health practitioner (or offer a related wellness service) consider donating 10 hours of your services (per year) to our Volunteer Counselling Project (to be provided to those who can’t otherwise afford these services).

• If you are skilled with writing, help us with writing pieces for the volunteer counselling project website. We have a communication working group to assist you (one to two hours per week).

• Become a recruiter with the Volunteer Counselling Project to recruit practitioners in the community willing to donate 10 sessions per year to those who can’t otherwise afford these services (one to two hours per week).

• Become part of our dynamic Communication Working Group team to support our overall communication efforts to the community.

2) Or you can donate. (A charitable tax receipt can be requested.) We currently have two angel funders each willing to donate up to $5,000 to $10,000 that, if matched by community donations, will equal $20,000 in donated funding!

• Cash – contact David Norget ( or Martha Taylor (

• Cheque – payable to Salt Spring Community Health Society mailing address: 181 Booth Canal Rd., Salt Spring Island, B.C., V8K 2N2 (Please specify “SSHAN – Mental Wellness Initiative” on your cheque).

•E-transfer – (Please specify “SSHAN – Mental Wellness Initiative” in the message section of your transfer).

• Online – Search for Salt Spring Community Health Society and please specify “SSHAN – Mental Wellness Initiative” in the note section. During the month of June through CanadaHelps, every $1 donated gives the MWI the chance to win $20,000. The more that’s donated, the greater the chances of our winning (

• For any significant (>$25,000) donation of securities (publicly traded stocks and bonds), there is a possibility of avoiding paying capital gains tax by contributing to a flow-through fund through the Salt Spring Island Foundation (SSIF). Please talk to us to discuss further details. (Great thanks go to the SSIF for this option.)

Our motto is “Co-creating a community of caring and belonging.”

The Mental Wellness Initiative thanks our past and present sponsors — Island Health Community Wellness, SSIF, Capital Regional District Grants-in-aid — as well as the many organizations and community members who have contributed their time to our efforts. We also thank Harlan’s Chocolates and Salt Spring Coffee for contributing chocolate and coffee to support our community appeal!


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