Driving Simryn Atwal to create Bridge the Gap Mental Health Association was the lack of awareness about mental health programming in Surrey, B.C., a city that struggles with gang violence, changing demographics and cultural divides that can lead to anxiety and depression. As a mental health speaker in the Surrey and Maple Ridge school districts, Simryn has been offering a helping hand to her community for years. Before creating her own organization focused on mental health services, Simryn got involved with Kids Help Phone. While there, she put on events and guided talks to create awareness about mental health and eventually became the organization’s youngest regional chair. Her passion for helping marginalized groups in society led to her founding Bridge the Gap Mental Health Association in 2018. Her main goal for this organization was to make mental health services more accessible in Surrey, especially for those in the community who she saw were slipping through the cracks. Focusing on inner-city youth, Simryn worked to break down the stigma associated with reaching out for help by addressing the informational gap and connecting people to resources that might otherwise have remained undiscovered. She could see that while mental health services were available, awareness about them was lacking—essentially, kids didn’t know what these services were or how to access them. Bridge the Gap Mental Health Association aims to fix that by connecting people who are struggling with relevant programming.
In addition to her tireless work with Bridge the Gap Mental Health Association, Simryn is a UN youth delegate and has worked with the Minister of Defence to draft the first federal youth policy including mental health reform.
BRIDGE THE GAP MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION
Bridge the Gap Mental Health Association’s mission is to make mental health services and information more accessible, especially for marginalized groups in society.
When COVID-19 hit, Bridge the Gap immediately recognized the importance of mental health advocacy during this time as the sudden isolation that came with the pandemic was increasing depression among youth. The organization has pivoted to provide a digital platform that is accessible virtually and has created online toolkits, ebooks and mental health videos to help the large increase of people needing help since the pandemic has started.
Since Bridge the Gap was founded, it has helped over 3,000 inner-city youth through their digital programs along with counselling, referral services and peer-to-peer facilitation.