As part of mental health week, Regina Public Library hosted their first Mental Health Trade Show to encourage people to learn and talk about their personal struggles.

On Saturday, from noon to 4 p.m., people gathered in the mezzanine of the Central Library.

Nine organizations and three guest speakers were there to provide information on resources for people with mental illness and for their family and friends as well.

Reaching out to others

Trevor Svingen is living proof that the right resources can help people help themselves, and eventually others as well.

Now a volunteer peer support leader, Svingen was once quite crippled by anxiety and depression.

'A lot of the stuff I've learned has changed my life.'  - Trevor Svingen

About two years ago, he started attending mental wellness group meetings every Thursday at the Regina General Hospital.

"A lot of the stuff I've learned has changed my life. It's a lot different now than it was before," he said. "I was very depressed, didn't get out of the house, didn't do much and I've slowly gotten myself confidence, built up by going to the group."

"I feel comfortable talking to strangers and helping other people out."

With some tweaks in his medication and the routine of speaking at the group, Svingen was able to reach out to others.

"I felt more confident to take on other roles," he said. "Some Thursday nights I'll facilitate the smaller groups."

"I encourage anyone who thinks they might want to come attend it, just come and try us out, even just one night. We're here for you."

Alejandra Cabrera

Three speakers stepped up to talk about mental health at the trade show. (Kendall Latimer/CBC News. )

At the meetings, Svingen said they each check in, talk about how their week and discuss a topic picked by the registered psychiatric nurse who sits in.

Svingen said reaching out for professional help was more difficult in the past, but still isn't easy to do.

"There is a lot more now than when I first started going around looking for help," he said. "I'd like to see a way of being able to retain more psychiatrists so people aren't having to wait for a year to see a psychiatrist. That's too long."

According to Svingen, events like the one at the library are important to bring attention to the group and help people realize they are not alone.

"Even though people say it's getting better, there's still a big stigma attached to mental illness and we want to be able to get out there and say, 'Look, there's nothing wrong. You're not any different than anyone else,'" he said.

A first for the library

Program lead for the event, Alejandra Cabrera, said she was pleased with the turnout of people both looking for and offering support.

"Sometimes, people don't know where to start, so if we just offer something that's casual or drop-in for people, they may be more inclined to seek help or information," she said. "People are asking lots of questions which is exactly what they're looking for."

Alejandra Cabrera

Alejandra Cabrera organized the trade show to bring mental health supports to light. (Kendall Latimer/CBC News)

As a library programmer, Cabrera said it was the perfect opportunity for her to bring an event based around mental health to the building.

"As someone who has struggled with mental illness myself...when you're in a crisis it's hard to know really where to start," she said. "Working with the general public, you see all walks of life so it's important to be able to provide them with all different types of resources and that's what the library does."

"We try to bring in different communities and different programs to expand everyone's horizons and further their education."

With files from Kendall Latimer.