Centre for Addiction and Mental Health fashion show celebrates resilience and recovery

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health fashion show celebrates resilience and recovery

NATALIE CHU

Jun 01, 2014

Dressed in a bright orange and gold tunic, Bronwen Sims looked radiant.

Sims was among 35 individuals at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) who took to the stage at this year’s “Suits Me Fine” fashion show, Thursday afternoon, May 29. Every year, current and former clients participate in the show, dressed in pieces from CAMH’s volunteer-run clothing program, Suits Me Fine.

“Doing the show is really a chance to boost your confidence and develop a sense of community,” Sims said.

The theme of this year’s show was “Look how far you’ve come” in honour of the resilience and recovery demonstrated by CAMH clients.

Sims’ recovery story began six years ago, when she could barely find work and was surviving on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) cheque.

The little income she had made it almost impossible to purchase suitable clothing for job interviews.

However, through the CAMH Suits Me Fine program, she was given the right outfit – a powder blue business suit, which she wore to an interview for a part-time position at the mental health centre.

Sims said that to this day, the interviewer, now a co-worker, still comments on the look.

“The world can be quite judgmental,” Sims said. “If you’re not looking good and not feeling good, it’s hard to feel confident and put yourself out there.”

Now Sims works full time as a peer support worker at CAMH. She helps clients currently admitted or during their first few months post-treatment transition back into society. The first month is the most critical time of recovery, Sims said.

Norma McDowall, the show’s coordinator, said she began the event 10 years ago to “show how beautiful the clients are.”

“Our clients have grown so much,” McDowall said. “They can now wear colours and feel happy and look in the mirror and say ‘That’s me,’” she said.

McDowall said the show has become so popular clients are requesting to be a part of it a year in advance.

Except for a couple of years, Sims has been involved with each fashion show. She has since invited other clients to participate.

Sims said organizers work hard to create outfits that reflect each client’s style and story.

“It’s really personal,” Sims said. Participants also get to keep their outfit at the end of the show.

“When the going gets tough, I have to remind myself how far I’ve come, literally,” Sims said.

Though she still struggles with her mental health at times, she looks to her own story as inspiration.

“Working on your recovery doesn’t always have to be clinical,” Sims said.

“Taking care of my mental health can be fun and there are so many ways I can feel better,” she said

Credit: Parkdale Villager

Dawnmarie Harriott