(Clint Younge will be a panelist at the Georgia Straight’s upcoming event, Grassroots: An Expo for the Cannabis Curious on April 7 and 8, 2018. Get your tickets now.)
When Rebecca Taube set out to make a series of changes in her life after struggling with depression and anxiety, she had no idea it would lead to the creation of an organization that would eventually serve others struggling with their mental health, too.
The Hamilton, Ontario resident is the cofounder and facilitator of LOST, an organization that seeks to provide support for individual wellness through a support group, peer counseling, community yoga classes, and more.
‘Big moments led to the creation of LOST,’ Taube told the Straight over the phone from Hamilton earlier this month.
It was the inquiry of a family member struggling with mental health issues of their own that spurred Taube into action.
Though her family member didn’t have a drug or alcohol problem, they told Taube they were finding more support at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the community than from their therapist.
Taube asked if there were any local mental-health support groups to attend instead, and while a few specific groups were offered at a nearby hospital, there weren’t any readily accessible options for those who might be in crisis.
‘I myself struggled with depression and anxiety, and I have that knowledge, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I draft up a support group and see if it works?” she said.
But without support, it proved to be too much work for one person, and after one year, Taube was resigned to the fact that she couldn’t do it alone.
‘I wrote down every possible way it could have worked, and it wouldn’t have happened without a partner,’ she said.
‘Literally the day before Clint called me and said, ‘I read what you’re doing and I think we could work together’, I quit.’
Clint Younge’s call couldn’t have come at more opportune time. The CEO of MMJ Canada had also struggled with mental health issues, and couldn’t think of a better way to champion support for those similarly affected by making LOST a division of the cross-country cannabis brand.
‘Cannabis has more reach than anyone, and I figured if we merged, I could start using cannabis as a platform to raise awareness,’ Younge told the Straight.
Today, Taube and Younge celebrate the opening of a 2,500-square-foot facility in Hamilton. The first of two facilities slated to open within the next month, it will offer visitors resources including opportunities to meet with support workers, a monthly speaker series, yoga classes, and a free 16-week course focused on different discussion topics related to mental health.
‘We have an open-door policy, and you can come in and speak with staff in two separate areas,’ Taube said. ‘We’ll have volunteers greeting people, letting them know about the 16-week program, and asking how we can help you. It’s a comfortable space with lots of literature, where you don’t have to pay, and there’s no waitlist.’
Younge plans to open the second facility on October 16 here in Vancouver, next door to MMJ Canada’s dispensary location at East 12th Avenue and Clark Drive.
For Taube, the organization’s name (Living Outside of Suffering and Trauma) invites those dealing with mental-health issues to reframe them in a different light.
‘Everybody’s lost, so let’s change the name to mean something more positive,’ she said. ‘I want to say, ‘You’re lost and that’s great, because you’re going to learn from all of these experiences.’
For Younge, the opportunity to give back to the community is one he simply couldn’t ignore.
‘The way it’s going to be structured, it’s something I’ll be using regularly,’ he said. ‘I’ve had some severe mental health issues, and it means a lot to me to have LOST and MMJ Canada as partners, because it’s an outlet for me too. This is for everyone.’
While the future of Ontario dispensaries hangs in the balance, Younge said he is proud to represent an often demonized community that he’s seen as nothing but generous.
‘People just demonize the hell out of dispensaries, but the cannabis community unites better than any community,’ he said. ‘We don’t judge, because we’re the outsiders.’