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COMMUNITY COLUMNIST: A true mental health champion is recognized

By Charles A. Cino, special to the News

She is not a psychiatrist, a nurse or a therapist. She has never worked as a paid worker in the mental health field.
However, she has worked extensively as a mental health worker — a volunteer mental health worker for 20 years.
Her work created something significant and lasting that has helped hundreds of area people cope with their mood disorders. She is a special lady and her name is Helga Kardynalczyk.
In 1985, a psychiatrist, nurse and a social worker from St. Joseph’s Hospital met to discuss the creation of a support group for adults living with mood disorders. Their initial meetings formed the Manic-Depressive and Depressive Association of Hamilton.
In 1986, Helga, a mother who was supporting a family member living with a mood disorder, was invited to become the group’s first volunteer and lead the group as the first elected president of what was to flourish into a major mental health organization in Hamilton.
The organization underwent a name change during the 1990s and became Mood Menders Support Group. This January, once again a new name has transformed the organization into Mood Menders Support Services.
Mood Menders Support Services has grown through the work of several administrations. Today, it provides clinical group therapy sessions, speakers’ lectures, educational workshops, community resources, book and DVD borrowing privileges, symposiums, and community awards. However, the core of the organization — the support group — still remains unchanged where members meet for a trained facilitator led discussion and garner support from their peers. Membership now exceeds over 180 members and is growing.
On Dec. 12, Mood Menders Support Services recognized Helga Kardynalczyk for her outstanding service to this organization. As a founder, past president and board director, Helga worked tirelessly to help build this organization and see it become a registered Canadian charitable organization.
Above all, she ensured that those who joined it learned coping skills and were supported and instilled with hope towards their recovery. She was presented with the first annual Freeman Andrus Award, recognizing her as a champion of mental health. Named after Freeman Andrus, a longtime member who is now deceased, his name was chosen to reflect what the award was about. Freeman was a very caring individual serving as a greeter, board director and also procured a grant from Bell Canada. He always ensured that members were safe at the meetings.
His legacy is now reflected in the Freeman Andrus Award, which will be awarded to individuals much like Helga, who give their most and take nothing, doing so simply for the fact of helping others who are struggling with mental health issues.
Charles A. Cino is President of Mood Menders Support Services. For more information on Mood Menders Support Services, call 905-521-0090 ext. 234 or email moodmenders@hotmail.com.

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