United Way Launches Blue Love Campaign in Support of Mental Health

Heather Skydt holds up the UWGV Blue Heart campaign
United Way communications and marketing director Heather Skydt holds up artwork depicting their Blue Love campaign.

It’s been a full year since the pandemic has disrupted the world. The 70th Annual Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week – running May 3-9 – takes place at an opportune time, with almost half of Vancouver Islanders reporting worsening mental health due to the pandemic, according to the BCCDC Foundation for Public Health.

The Blue Love Campaign, recently launched by United Way Greater Victoria (UWGV), aims to raise $1 million by the end of December 2021 to fund counselling, peer support and outreach services across southern Vancouver Island as well as to raise awareness of mental health and reduce stigma. The concept of “Blue Love” implies that people’s hearts can be bruised black and blue from trauma or from an event or events that can change a person’s life; a global pandemic, in particular.

“Due to COVID-19, we’ve seen a 20 per cent increase in youth wanting to chat over youthspace.ca. The youth we serve are feeling isolated and tell us that the pandemic has made existing mental health issues more challenging to navigate,” said Maria Weaver, Acting Executive Director, NEED2. “We have also received triple the amount of requests for community workshops, particularly from community members looking for ways to support loved ones during these turbulent times.”

The theme for this year’s Mental Health Week is ‘understanding our emotions’. Over the past year, people have been and are experiencing unprecedented mental strain, and understanding and expressing emotions can improve mental and physical health, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

There are long waitlists and limited service hours for people seeking mental health services on southern Vancouver Island; barriers which can discourage some. 

With the additional $1 million raised, the mental health charitable sector could hire up 15 outreach/peer support workers or counsellors to provide help to approximately 9,000 to 15,000 adults, families, children or youth.

Funds raised from the campaign will benefit Blue Love community partners Connections Place, Family Services of Greater Victoria, Hulitan Family Services, Greater Victoria Citizens’  Counselling Centre, Mental Health Recovery Partners, NEED2 Suicide Prevention, Education &  Support, Pacific Centre Family Services, South Island Centre for Counselling & Training, Sooke Family Resource Society and Vancouver Island Men’s Therapy Centre. 

“We are thrilled to be part of United Way’s Blue Love Campaign for Mental Health. An investment in Connections Place enables us to expand our programming to include much needed evening and weekend services and hire peer support and outreach staff to work with existing and new members in our community. Being open and accessible as much as possible is key to ‘disrupting isolation by staying connected’ while providing our members with the opportunity to develop a strong circle of support and creating wellness in their lives,” said Chris Forester, Executive Director of Connections Place.

“Consistent funding is a mainstay of any non-profit and Citizens’ Counselling Centre is no exception. To keep our services running smoothly we rely on community partners like United Way,” said Laura Hutcheson, Special Projects Coordinator, Citizens’ Counselling Centre. “Even as the effects of being in a pandemic ease over the next year, the resulting stress, grief, and anxiety will be felt by our community for the foreseeable future. Our wait list existed before the pandemic and it is ever-growing. We strive to serve our clients as quickly and suitably as possible, having stable funding allows us to do this.”

Peninsula Co-op has gifted 100k to the cause and the Co-op will match every dollar raised up to the $100K level. 

To make a donation to the Blue Love Campaign, please visit: uwgv.ca/bluelovecampaign.