Manitoba Blue Cross is attempting to further progress the conversation around mental health by launching, for the first time, the Colour of Caring Healthy CommUnity Challenge.

At the beginning of August 2022, Manitoba Blue Cross announced the Colour of Caring Healthy CommUnity Challenge which gives local individuals, groups, workplaces or organizations the opportunity to partner with them to make their mental health initiatives come to reality. The winning idea will receive $25,000 to assist in funding the mental health initiative.

"The aim is to ask our fellow Manitobans to submit ideas that do one of the following, either address a unique need that enhances mental health in the community, support mental health, and fitness and help reduce mental health challenges, or create accessible and culturally appropriate mental health services for a targeted community, or reduce mental health stigma and promote awareness and understanding," says Jodie Voth, manager of employee assistance services at Manitoba Blue Cross.

There were 70 idea submissions covering various topics, and the designated Manitoba Blue Cross judges narrowed the selection to five ideas that stood out from the rest. 

Voth admits that they received more submissions than they thought they would get. She is excited that the challenge had a great response, especially since this is the first time the challenge has taken place. 

"Right now, we're really just looking at after the challenge is complete. We want to assess the value of it, make sure that it's offering something valuable to Manitobans and then we'll determine if we should make this an annual event."

The five finalists are from a variety of groups and organizations, Acorn Family Place, The Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, Main Street Project, N.E.E.D.S. Inc., and Sara Riel Inc.

"I don't want to give it all away. I really want people to check out the website and go over the ideas for themselves, but I can say that all the ideas are really unique and will have a positive impact on mental health, which is really what we were striving for here. So, some of them touched on topics like preventing social isolation for parents, encouraging physical activity in young kids, and delivering culturally appropriate services to minority communities, including indigenous people of colour and newcomers. Again, such diversity amongst the ideas and again, I don't want to give it all away, but some really cool stuff to see there, so people should definitely check it out."

Many initiatives have been created due to the rising awareness of mental health since the pandemic. Voth says that it's because of the pandemic that mental health concerns have become so widespread, "we almost couldn't not talk about it."

"The conversation is shifting more to mental health as a component of health, rather than this idea that it's a separate and part component of our experience, but you essentially can't have health without mental health. We're seeing more workplaces incorporate workplace initiatives, increasing the benefit coverage for mental health supports and that's all great. We still have some work to do though and I think that we're well-positioned to see some more gains if we partner together and that's where we are really driven to make sure that further steps are taken to increase mental health awareness, reduce stigma and ultimately increase access to important services."

Manitobans can vote for which mental health idea is best, which they believe will make the most impact, by visiting the Manitoba Blue Cross website

Voting ends Noember 2, 2022.