Courage Box is a self-help service for people living with mental illness, particularly anxiety and depression. The subscription-based box is a flexible resource designed to fit easily into anyone’s schedule. Shawn Clouthier, a third-year women’s and gender studies student, created it for people affected by mental illness who struggle to access care.
I’ll admit, when I first found out about Courage Box, I didn’t really understand its purpose. I thought it was a weird way to address an issue like mental illness, which might be best left to medical professionals. It wasn’t until after doing more research into Clouthier’s reasons for creating the service that I understood that I was looking at it from the wrong point of view.
Courage Box was developed in consultation with mental-health professionals, but Clouthier is very clear that it’s not meant to replace their services. Courage Box deliveries should not replace therapy and won’t include medication, but rather, the subscription program is a resource for people to turn to when they aren’t able to access those services or for supplemental assistance.
The Courage Box website states that “it is a service developed in an attempt to fill the gaps present in mental-health care.” There are many reasons why someone experiencing mental illness may not have access to professional services. It’s one thing to overcome stigma and reach out for help, but people still have to deal with long waiting lists for medical attention and countless other people trying to invalidate their illness.
Clouthier experienced all of these barriers before coming up with the idea for Courage Box. They wanted the service to be accessible, free of stress and easy to fit into anyone’s schedule.
“You can go to the resources when you have the time or the energy. If you are not feeling like it one day, you don’t have to reschedule an appointment — you can just put it down for the day and just return to it later,” Clouthier said. “It’s less threatening than having to go out and try [to] fight for resources, which we often have to do.”
The service consists of a monthly box designed around a theme of mental wellness. Past themes include
self-discovery and cognitive-behavioural therapy. Boxes about art therapy, healthy eating and modern mysticism are in the works. Each box comes with supplies and connects to online instructions for themed activities. Ideally, subscribers will try out different mental-health strategies each month and learn which activities work for them.
“We are hoping that people will spend that month practicing that strategy — to see if it has an effect, if it helps, or maybe it has no effect. Different things work for different people,” Clouthier said. “The aim is to expose people to a lot of different strategies, so they can figure out what works for them, and to do it in a way that’s accessible.”
Courage Box is a reminder that mental-health care is broader and more complex than we sometimes realize.There are many gaps in the services available to those experiencing mental illness, and it is good to have a resource like Courage Box to fill them in. Clouthier gives subscribers the tools and strategies to take care of themselves, independent from the help that they may or may not have access to.
“It’s not about what’s in the box. It’s not the ingredients — it’s how you use them,” Clouthier said. “I think that it’s a really empowering way to help yourself, to learn strategies on your own and take control of your own recovery.”
The stigma around mental illness still exists, but services like Courage Box help mitigate it. It’s good to have resources with minimal barriers that are available to anyone looking for help, as we do for most other illnesses. Courage Box is delivered monthly to student subscribers through the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union Help Centre. If you are looking for a way to take care of your mental wellness, why not give it a try?
Ana Cristina Camacho
Photo: Oliver Barrett