Paul Laberge is hoping to keep the talk about mental health going as many people, including himself, face challenges due to things like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year and the beginning of 2021 saw several changes for his mental health initiatives through his organization Let’s Walk the Talk. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Laberge has had to put a lot of events on hold or change them.
Despite this, Laberge is undertaking a couple of projects to foster the mental health discussion. This includes launching his own podcast. Each episode will feature a new guest telling their stories and helping people to understand their mental health, including how to reach out or provide support.
Laberge is also, after receiving his life coach certification last year, starting out on the speaking circuit with groups like the Connecting Parents Supporting Families.
He says he’s hoping to help people, especially men or young adults who may struggle opening up out of fear of rejection or disappointment from loved ones, to know that it’s okay to need help, and to ask for it.
“I was watching my dad, when he was going through mental health [struggles,] and I [saw] all the signs when I was living with him, you know, hanging out with him, and it scared me. So I think that’s why I’m so open about it, and I just want people to know it’s okay. I want to clear that path.”
In addition to the speaking tours, Laberge is readying himself for another Walk the Talk event. In his first year, he walked from Saskatoon to Lloydminster, hearing people’s stories and collecting donations along the way.
While the COVID-19 pandemic made it so that his event had to go virtual for 2020, he says this year he will go ahead no matter what, as the journey is a major mental and physical milestone for him, and a way for people to have a springboard to talk about mental health in their own circles.
This year, the walk will be longer, with Laberge going from Regina to Lloydminster, in preparation for a walk in 2024 that will span all of Canada.
He notes that the people he’s met along the way have put into perspective what a supportive mental health community could look like.
“If people feel like they’re alone, they’re definitely not. I have met a lot of great people, I’m very fortunate. I never thought I would be here, meet so many strangers, and before you know it, they become my friend.”
Next steps for Let’s Walk the Talk include a fundraiser Apparel Sale, which Laberge says has seen a lot of support so far. He’s also working to get Let’s Walk the Talk non-profit status so that he can devote more time and effort as well as have more financial resources for his mental health work.
Laberge says he’s especially hopeful people pick up the white t-shirts, because of their alternative meaning.
“Our community is amazing, and I couldn’t thank everyone enough. The biggest thing I want is to try and push out is to buy a white t-shirt, because I really want people to support White T-Shirt Day, or World Suicide Prevention Day.”
Details on all of Let’s Walk the Talk ongoing and upcoming projects can be found on their website.