Guide to Sarnia-area mental health programs seeking support

Guide to Sarnia area mental health programs seeking support

Inflation is impacting a Petrolia resident’s work to ensure those living in Lambton County and Chatham-Kent have access to a free, up-to-date guide to local mental health resources and support.

Inflation is impacting a Petrolia resident’s work to ensure those living in Lambton County and Chatham-Kent have access to a free, up-to-date guide to local mental health resources and support.

Debb Pitel created the non-profit No One Stands Alone project that prints a booklet guide to resources and places it in public locations across the two communities. It also maintains a website,

“No One Stands Alone is a resource guide to all local aspects of help” for “what people might consider mental health,” she said.

The aim of the about 25-page booklet is to provide a way to help individuals of all ages find “the agencies they need in all aspects of struggle,” Pitel said.

“Whether its children’s concerns, whether it’s addiction, whether its homelessness or elderly resources that are needed, everything is in this book as a first point of contact.”

There’s a version of the booklet for Lambton County and one for Chatham-Kent, she said.

Pitel, who recently was elected to Petrolia town council, relies on sponsors and fundraising for the about $100,000 needed each year to update, print and distribute the booklets across the two communities.

She expects to print about 60,000 copies this year.

But printing, paper and other costs have nearly doubled since the pandemic began so she has had to scale up fundraising and her efforts to attract sponsors and partners, she said.

A few municipalities support the project but it doesn’t receive provincial funding, she said.

Anyone interested in the project can contact Pitel at [email protected] and 519-504-6672.

The booklets are placed in library branches, restaurants, churches, municipal offices, fire halls, arenas, golf courses, grocery stores and other businesses “where you never need an appointment, and placed at the door so you never have to request a copy, ” Pitel said.

That takes into account individual’s pride and “awkwardness that they’re feeling in what might be some of the worst times of their life,” she said.

The information the booklet provides can be “difficult to find and I want to change that,” Pitel said.

“My own journey through this exact experience led me back then, 20 years ago, to ask questions of friends” and others while struggling to “find what I needed,” Pitel said.

“When it’s mental health, you don’t necessarily know what you’re looking for. The guide wasn’t there and the navigation to find resources was non-existent” or “difficult, at best.”

Pitel said she and her family “struggled to find resources for our son for many, many years.” He died by suicide one month before his 15th birthday in 2001.

She began working with local agencies to figure out why there were gaps in awareness and looked for ways to change that.

Pitel released a book about her experience, I’m Still Your Mom, in 2020 with proceeds from its sale donated to local agencies.

But, she said, “my heart was still telling me I wasn’t helping people overcome the problem that I knew existed.”

And that problem was finding out where to go for help.

“People shouldn’t have to search this hard in their worst moments to find help,” Pitel said.

No One Stands Alone began a year later.

“All of us, at one point or another, have struggled with stress or money, or jobs, or kids, or parents, and all of these things are triggers that, if untreated, become a bigger problem,” Pitel said.

Pitel believes the booklet has been helping in the three years since the project began.

One of its uses is providing individuals with something they can give or leave for friends, family or colleagues they know are struggling.

People often are reluctant to talk to others they see in those situations because of a fear of saying the wrong thing, Pitel said.

“You won’t need the words,” she said. “They’ll find what they’re looking for and just know you cared.”

[email protected]


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