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From 'barely surviving, to living': Calgary family champions local mental health supports

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It seemed like their world was crashing in when free mental health services changed the lives of a Calgary family and now they are trying to help others get the same support.

“It’s really just changed my life, truly, and I just wish that for other women,” said Julianne Buchler.

Buchler grew up in Calgary, married an American and was living in California when the family faced a number of financial, emotional and health hurdles that left them reeling.

She was dealing with a difficult pregnancy with their second child when her husband was laid off.

The very next day their first child was admitted to the ICU with a serious respiratory illness.

Calgary

A few weeks later, the family moved to Calgary, soon after the Buchler’s second child was born as the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“It felt like the world was really caving in on me and on us," said Julianne.

She said a referral to Calgary Women's Mental Health program saved them.

“To be referred within a few weeks by my family physician to this program where I had free mental health support was just mind-blowing,” she said.

“Coming from the U.S. where everything comes with a price tag, and it's a big price tag, it was shocking to me," Buchler added.. "I still feel like it's unbelievable and that's why I'm trying to raise awareness and support for this service.”

“We went from surviving, and at times barely surviving, to living… and that was an incredible gift," said Julianne Buchler.

Saying 'thank you'

The Buchlers are so grateful for the free mental health support, they are trying to raise $10,000 with the Run for Women Calgary to say thank you and  to help other families in need.

“We went from surviving, and at times barely surviving, to living… and that was an incredible gift," said Julianne.

“I don't think we could ever give back as much as they've given us and our family,” said her husband Rick.

“It’s been amazing for us and our family," she added. "Since we've gotten here we've gotten amazing support and it continues to this day.”

The run takes place June 15 at Edworthy Park, but the Buchlers are already practicing their steps to raise awareness about the event by walking and connecting with the community.

Julianne said it's a continuation of her journey.

“I need to be outside I need to be walking," Julianne said. "It's what I do to support my mental health to this day, including the support from the foundation itself and it's just been a really nice way to sort of bring those things together.”

7 neighbourhoods

Julianne, Rick and their six-year-old son James and four-year-old daughter Jax have visited seven Calgary neighbourhoods and more than forty different businesses so far.

“It’s led to some great conversations with local businesses. We've met some wonderful people. We've discovered some great treats local treats.”

The event supports Calgary Health Foundation initiatives.

“Over the last 11 years that we've been involved, over $1.3 million has been raised in Calgary to support women's mental health,” said Heather Innes, director of community engagement and donor relations at Calgary Health Foundation.

This year, funds will go toward the Women’s Mental Health Clinic.

“In Calgary, one in five women are struggling with their mental health,” she said.

And towards the Calgary Eating Disorder Program.

The Buchler family are so grateful for the free mental health support they are trying to raise $10,000 with the Run for Women Calgary to say thank you and help other families in need.

“We are fundraising for the very first of its kind unit at the Foothills Medical Health Center for eating disorders, patients to be treated in-house at the centre," Innes said.

These supports can be life-saving in some cases, according to psychiatrist Dr. Monique Jericho, who is the medical director of the Calgary Eating Disorder Program.

“Nobody in our community should ever feel that they're turned away because of the type of problem they have and so adding more resources, adding more supports for this particular group of people is going to make a huge difference,” said Dr. Jericho.

She adds helping one person can also change the lives of many people.

“Not only do we support the women, families and their children, but we also reduce the burden and distress on that next generation, so that their kids are growing up with greater stability.”

The Buchlers hope they can help fundraise for more resources and greater awareness for the services.

“Mental health support comes to the forefront of what we can do to help people live their best life,” said Buchler.

Find out more about their campaign here.

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