brettfrancisBrett Francis (left) with Ruth Smith, Executive Director of the CMHA Swift Current Branch

A record crowd was on hand for the 11th annual Mayor's Luncheon Tuesday at the Sky Centre, to support the Canadian Mental Health Association Swift Current Branch.

Brett Francis was this year's guest speaker. She was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome and severe ADHD at the age of six, and later diagnosed with OCD and panic disorder.

Francis delivered a powerful message about overcoming the odds of mental health issues.

"My main message is don't be embarrassed about it. A big part of your disabilities are understanding them properly and communicating it properly to people," explained Francis. "It's just a matter of communicating it properly and defining who you are with it and accepting it. Accepting it is the hardest part, but once you're no longer embarrassed about it or ashamed of it, you need to find the right tools to channel it to your advantage and once you do that, it's more about defining who you are and who you want to be with those barriers."

Francis is the owner, CEO and president of four companies, a soon to be author, and is actively involved in speaking and spreading awareness of mental health.

The CMHA assists those with mental illness by offering a number of  programs and services through the branch's Drop-In Centre. Last year, the CMHA Swift Current branch's meal program served just shy of 8000 helpings for clients afflicted with mental illness. Executive Director of the CMHA, Ruth Smith, says the stigma surrounding mental health issues is starting to fall.

"The barriers are starting to be broken down slightly. I think as soon as people start thinking of mental health issues as the same as physical health issues, we will have won. We haven't quite got there yet, but we're on our way," she said. "Part of our job, even though we do look after the people that come to our Drop-in Centre and do all of those programs in there, part of our job is to raise awareness and to bring it to the community, so people really get to understand what mental health issues are all about. It's an illness and we should treat it as such, or in Brett's case, she says it's just part of your personality and you can use it to your best ability."

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