By Anne Wagner
Anne is a Professor at Nipissing University in the department of Child and Family Studies. She is also the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Mental Health Association, Muskoka Parry Sound Branch.
As June roles around many community organizations are holding their annual general meetings. The Canadian Mental Health Association of Muskoka Parry Sound and the Addiction & Mental Health Services is no exception.
On June 12 and 13 more than 100 people celebrated the agency becoming a member of the Canadian Mental Health Association and merging with Addiction Outreach. Participants were presented with many helpful workshop opportunities and a presentation from CEO Joe Roberts.
Roberts delivered an alternately inspirational and hilarious keynote address. Known also as the “Skidrow CEO”, Roberts shared his insights from his experiences as a heroin-addict pushing a shopping cart through Vancouver’s down town east side, to his transformation into a successful CEO, author and internationally renowned professional speaker.
Demonstrating his belief in the value of humour, Roberts recounted speaking to a group of engineers and thinking “what can I say to this room full of people who design bridges?” As someone whose home used to be under a bridge, he simply told them “thank you and keep up the good work!”
Discussing his road to recovery, Roberts explained that he considers himself a community project gone right. Likening himself to Humpty Dumpty, he told the audience that a range of caring people and service-providers helped to put him back together.
Roberts spoke passionately about the need for prevention and support services, especially for youth. Advocating a philosophy of possibility as opposed to our usual reliance on a framework of possibility, Roberts highlighted the need to nurture people’s potential and support them in striving to look beyond their current reality and instead envision what they can be.
Recalling his encounter with a stranger when he was homeless, Roberts recounted having been told that he was an amazing person and that there was more to him than he could see. These words stuck with Roberts and continue to resonate with him today.
Roberts has dedicated his life to helping others follow in his footsteps and find the better part of themselves as he did when he emerged from homelessness and addiction in 1991. Walking his talk, Roberts is planning to walk across Canada pushing a shop cart, in an effort to raise money and awareness around addiction issues. To learn more visit www.thepushforchange.com