By Robert McAlaster, contributor.


On Friday, Jan.25th, Nicola Family Therapy graciously accepted a $20,000 donation from the Merritt Hospital Auxiliary Board in support of providing financial assistance for men’s counselling services through the organization.

In a written statement sent to the Herald, Sheri Bishop, Executive Director of Nicola Family Therapy explained the importance of the donation and others like it in recent years.

“Nicola Family Therapy hold contracts with the [Ministries] of Public Safety [and] Children and Family Development, as well as the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology,” Bishop writes. “Unless a man is a student of NVIT or a father who is involved with the Ministry of Child and Family Development, the contracts we hold do not offer men access to mental health and trauma counselling.  [This], in most cases, leads to [men] going without much needed Mental Health Care.”

According to a 2021 article published by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), “In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.”

A separate article written by Rob Whitley (associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University) and published by the CBC in February 2021 highlighted the divide between genders who struggle with mental health. “Worryingly,” Whitley writes, “evidence suggests that men also under-utilize mental health services, with statistics indicating that women are almost three times more likely to seek help through these services.”

What makes these statistics even more staggering is studies that show that Canadian males are approximately three times more likely than their female counterparts to either attempt or succeed at committing suicide. This figure, according to Whitley, accounts for as many as fifty male suicides per week across the country.

Nicola Family Therapy, for their part, hopes to reduce that number so that “no man is left waiting.”

“Every dollar raised has been earmarked for men’s trauma and mental health counselling and we are committed to providing this much-needed service,” Bishop explained.

“Our dream,” She continued, “is to be able to sustain a counselling program for men that is fully funded and has staff available to support [it]. For our dream to become a reality, more funds are needed. This generous donation is just the beginning, it is our hope that other community organizations will answer the call and join our community sponsorship campaign for Men’s Mental Health Services.”

This is not the first time the small organization has received such a large and generous donation. In December 2020, Merritt’s own Darius Sam partnered with Nicola Family in a unique fundraising event. Sam successfully ran an “ultramarathon” from Nicola Lake to Spences Bridge and back over 24 hours. The total distance for the young man’s run covered 100 miles (164km). According to Nicola Family, over $23,000 in donations was raised in a brilliant display of community support.

Nicola Family Therapy is a non-profit counselling agency serving Merritt and the surrounding area since 1993. The staff of three dedicated counsellors help individuals, couples, families, and groups, providing a “truly essential service for [the community of Merritt].” Typically, according to Bishop, the counsellors at Nicola Family assist 300-400 persons each year.

For more information on the services provided by Nicola Family Therapy, Merritt residents are encouraged to visit or call 250-378-9222.