Saint John man’s mental health campaign helping to train people in crisis intervention

A Saint John man’s initiative to raise awareness about mental health is also helping train people in crisis intervention.

Gary Brown designed the “I Am All Ears, Reach Out” t-shirt campaign in April, inspired to act after seeing how mental illness affected many around him.

“Hopefully it gets people talking,” he says.

Brown says the point of the red shirt is to send a message that people are available to listen. He says people who’ve purchased the shirt have been told not to wear it if they aren’t able to listen in that moment.

“If you don’t have time, don’t wear it,” he says.

About 400 t-shirts have been purchased to-date, at $15 each.

Brown was able to print the first 100 t-shirts thanks to a donation from IBEW 502.

”I just kept reprinting with the money I made and as I went along I said ‘What am I going to do with the money?”

Brown says he eventually decided to put all the money toward training people in a widely recognized crisis intervention course called ASIST: Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.

The ASIST program costs $150 per person. So far, the t-shirt campaign has be able to offer the course to 17 people.

“Next week we’re putting another 10 through,” says Brown, adding another training session is being planned for October.

Susan Deery took the ASIST course recently and says its knowledge everybody should have,

“I know now that I would at least be able to help somebody and get to them to safety,” she says.

In the meantime, Brown is also helping to build a special memorial park behind the Crescent Valley Gospel Centre in Saint John.

“This park is going to be dedicated to people struggling with mental health,” he says.

Brown’s goal is for the park to be finished by September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day.