New B.C. campaign aims to have more strangers ‘Just Say Hello’

The Coast Mental Health Foundation (CMHF) is launching a new campaign on Giving Tuesday to help foster connections between strangers in B.C.

Andrea Mundie, vice chair of the CMHF board, says the idea for the campaign grew out of her time living in Gastown and interacting with her neighbours there.

One particular encounter sticks with her, she says, after stopping to talk to a man crying on the street. She says she couldn’t believe how many people just walked past him, without stopping to ask if he was okay.

“If he had been able to tell his story, so many people wouldn’t have walked by and wouldn’t have judged him,” she said. “I guess it’s that humanity that’s missing when we don’t take a moment to say something back, (like) ‘hello.'”

Now, Mundie is advocating for more people across the province to take the time to extend a simple gesture to people they pass by while out and about.

“Not being acknowledged as a human when someone greets you has got to be one of the most awful feelings in the world,” she said.

While the “Just Say Hello” campaign places an emphasis on addressing an epidemic of loneliness among Vancouver’s unhoused community, Mundie says the campaign extends to everyone.

In a YouTube video, CMH client Nicole says she felt alone and isolated while living on the streets.

“If you feel like nobody’s saying hi to you, everyone’s just acting like you’re not there, you start to feel like garbage,” she said.

“Everyone was just rushing past me, and morning traffic going to their morning job and I was sobbing. Everyone was busy having life and I was falling apart completely. (Then) this one lady totally stopped. And was like ‘Are you ok? You’re crying.’ Like – someone acknowledged me, you know?”

Now, Nicole works as a Coast Mental Health Peer Support Worker to help others find connections like the one she experienced while homeless.

Mundie says she acknowledges this campaign isn’t a “one size fits all solution,” but she thinks it’s something tangible and memorable that anyone can commit to.

“We do know when people are ignored or treated as if they’re not even worthy of a greeting back, that’s going to impact them in a negative way,” she said.

“We’re not solving anything, but what we are doing is creating a solution to acknowledge people.”

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