NEW GLASGOW — Sherry Blinkhorn says she is overjoyed and humbled to have received the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia’s Vision Award for Outstanding Volunteer.
The local real estate operator and Loch Broom resident received the award last week in conjunction with the foundation’s annual general meeting.
“Many advocates better than I am have paved the way for the many positive changes, I’m just happy to be one of those people for many years that can and will speak up for those that sometimes can’t.” Blinkhorn said. “As each year passes I’m starting to say out loud my own story and why I shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact mental illness affected my family and affects me”.
Foundation executive director Starr Cunningham, who grew up in Alma, presented Blinkhorn with the award.
“It was a true pleasure to present it to her,” Cunningham said. “The AGM gave us an opportunity to say thanks for her good work.”
She upheld Blinkhorn’s willingness to share her stories regarding her own mental health issues and advance the foundation’s work in Pictou County and elsewhere in the province.
“She has spoken very openly about her own mental health struggles,” Cunningham said. “We appreciate Sherry’s bravery in putting it out about mental health, that there is hope for positive recovery.”
Blinkhorn said the award has personal meaning for her.
“I’ve seen mental illness since I was born, experienced and saw my family suffer the stigma surrounding mental illness, the many mistaken beliefs back at that time,” she said. “I grew up believing the N.S. Hospital, or the “N.S.” or “Dartmouth” (as I knew it) was the place you were taken when you were bad. So the very place that had a lot to do with the impact on my own life over 40 years ago is the place that I received an award for my own advocacy work. It really feels like it came full circle for me.”
Blinkhorn recalled a time when the general public did not understand mental illness. The result was her placement in foster care. The situation compelled her from an early age to be a mental health advocate.
“It wasn’t a happy time for me or my family,” she said. “I wish there were organizations like the Mental Health Foundation and others back 40 something years ago. I’m happy that there are things, not only in place now for those who are ill, but (also) the families.”
Blinkhorn is glad to be sharing her story and not feel ashamed that mental health affected her family and affects her.
“I don’t need to be ashamed to say it out loud even as a business owner, Realtor and someone who is seen as a problem solver. The problem solving a person can do when they need help is to start by reaching out, not being ashamed of being labelled and find your voice for those who maybe are struggling. It is so important for people to know that they are not alone.”