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Olivia Sroka

Olivia Sroka is walking the Bruce Trail from start to finish to raise awareness about mental health and funds for CMHA Grey Bruce programming. She began her journey September 10, 2022, at the Trail's southern most point, the Southern Terminus, located near Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Hub Staff

Like many, Olivia Sroka experienced her own set of mental health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result she is walking the Bruce Trail from start to finish, over 900 kilometres, to raise awareness for mental health and funds to support Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Grey Bruce.

Sroka, who is originally from Rockwood but is currently living in Hanover, began her journey at the trail's most southern point, the Southern Terminus located near Niagara Falls, on September 10, 2022. Over a six week period, she is following the trail north until she finishes in Tobermory.

As of the end of September she had completed 471 kilometres of the trail. "I am now tackling the Beaver Valley section, I just surpassed the halfway point yesterday at 457 kilometres," said Sroka September 29.

"I am still on track to completing the whole thing by October 21," Sroka said.

Her fundraiser is titled 'Get Outside and Live Your Trail for CMHA Grey Bruce' and aims to shine a light on mental wellness and support CMHA Grey Bruce programs that require additional funding.

In a media release from CMHA Grey Bruce, for Sroka, mental health is an issue near and dear to her heart. Over the course of the pandemic, she went from her typical optimistic and bubbly self to feeling anxious and withdrawn, becoming unrecognizable to those close to her. As part of her healing process, she began incorporating a walk into her daily routine.

"I made sure to incorporate a walk into each of my days whether it was around the block or a long hike out on a trail," Sroka shared through CMHA Grey Bruce's website. "It wasn’t long before I realized the impact that a walk/hike had on my mood, my mindset, and my body. The fresh air, the shining sun (even clouds and cold!), the sound of birds, wind in the trees, or flowing water would bring the right amount of joy to make the days a little bit brighter," Sroka said, adding that she did her best thinking while she walked.

Sroka's campaign set a goal of raising $2,500 for CMHA Grey Bruce. At the time of publishing, that goal had been exceeded by over $1,300, raising a total of $3,860.

Anyone wishing to add to that total can do so by visiting zeffy.com/en-CA/fundraising/2f65bcd3-9eb4-4871-b93f-b1c22bfadb51. Donations can also be made by mail or in person to CMHA Grey Bruce, 1024 2nd Avenue East, Owen Sound, Ontario, N4K 2H7; or by phone at 519-371-3642 or 1-888-451-2642.

It is estimated that one in four people will experience mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety locally. This means that public education, awareness and supportive services for those struggling with mental illness and addictions are more important than ever.

Equity issues can also disproportionately impact mental health for marginalized populations. CMHA Ontario said that not only does equity matter for mental health but mental health also matters for equity.

People who experience marginalizations due to sexual orientation, poverty, racialization and disability, are more likely to experience poor mental health and have decreased access to the social determinants of health that are essential to recovery and positive mental health, read the CMHA Ontario website.

In addition, poor mental health has a negative impact on equity. "While mental health is a key resource for accessing the social determinants of health, historical and ongoing stigma has resulted in discrimination and social exclusion of people with lived experience of mental health issues or conditions," read the site.

There are also ways in which equity and mental health intersect. "People often experience both mental health issues and additional inequities (such as poverty, racialization, or homophobia) simultaneously," said CMHA Ontario. "Intersectionality creates unique experiences of inequity and mental health that poses added challenges at the individual, community and health systems level.

"The Canadian Mental Health Association Grey Bruce is grateful to Olivia and her commitment to supporting local mental health initiatives and appreciates her courage for sharing her story," read the CMHA Grey Bruce media release. "Olivia’s mental health journey is a reminder to us all that anyone can experience these types of challenges. No one is immune."