After coping with depression for more than a year and a half, Vishal Lekhi of Summerland wanted to share a message urging people to talk about mental health and to get support.
His message took the form of a billboard, visible from the north entrance to Penticton off Highway 97.
The message reads, “Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shames us all. Build a support network today.”
The billboard cost Lekhi $800 for one month. It will remain in place until June 13, unless he receives additional funding to pay for more time.
He added that he did not receive any funding from a mental health organization for the billboard.
In addition to the billboard, Lekhi has also set up a Facebook page, South Okanagan Mental Health Awareness. It can be found at https://www.facebook.com/SouthOkanaganMentalHealthAwareness.
Lekhi said the message on the billboard is important to him because of his experiences with depression and anxiety during his first year of university.
He coped with the help for some friends who gave him the support he needed.
“Luckily I had friends who were supportive. It helped a lot,” he said. “They never let me feel weak.”
Too often, he said, those dealing with depression or other mental illnesses do not want to talk about what they are facing, a trend which needs to change.
“When someone is mentally exhausted, they’ve been strong too long,” he said.
The Canadian Mental Health Association raises awareness of mental health issues in May. Mental Health Week ran from May 6 to 12 this year.
Those who want to contact Lekhi about the billboard may reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.