Mental health advocate disputes online claims

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Mike Loughman, 40, the force behind the annual Unmask Mental Health event, said he’s been negatively impacted by negative posts about him on a local Facebook group.

Anonymous postings to the New Airdrie Confessions group claim Loughman has not raised as much money as he has stated publicly and has kept the proceeds, claims he vehemently denies.

“They obviously just didn’t do their research and are just spewing out hate,” he said. “Having those things put out there about you, you feel so helpless. Things are being said about you, you don’t know who’s saying them and you don’t know who’s going to read it or believe it.”

Loughman has raised approximately $38,000 through the various fundraising activities he has held in the past three years. He said his motivation for starting to fundraise for various charities was pretty simple.

“I was diagnosed with several mental health illnesses, which helped me get sober because I started getting counselling and taking medication. I wanted to give back to the community and help other people so they didn’t have to suffer like I did,” he said.

In the Facebook posts, Loughman is accused of pocketing the money he has raised; however, he said a recent vacation, purchase of a used vehicle and various other items were funded through the proceeds from the sale of his home in 2017.

Multiple messages to the administrators of New Airdrie Confessions – who are keeping their identities a secret – went unanswered.

Chrystal Boys, executive director of Airdrie P.O.W.E.R, a non-profit group working to open an emergency shelter in Airdrie, said while the organization has not yet received its portion of the proceeds from this year’s Unmask Mental Health event, she was not concerned the funds would be forthcoming.

Boys said Loughman had informed her a second event – Mental Images, which matched poets with artists to create original works to be auctioned off – would wrap up Nov. 30 and a portion of proceeds from that event would be added to the proceeds from Unmask Mental Health and given to P.O.W.E.R.

“I’m just waiting until then to receive the funds from the two events. I’m really not concerned,” she said. “He’s doing amazing things for mental illness. I have the utmost faith in him.”

Kim Titus, founder of the Thumbs Up Foundation, said she’s disappointed in the members of the community who have chosen to anonymously accuse Loughman of wrongdoing.

“We advocate for positive change and mental health. Mike does what he does for advancing the cause of mental health and that kind of negative…cyberbullying is a mental health component as well. It needs to stop,” she said.

Titus said the foundation has received the donations Loughman raised for it both through the Unmask Mental Health event and a fundraising walk he did from High Level to Airdrie over 41 days in July and August.

Loughman said his primary charity of choice is the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, particularly the Defeat Depression Campaign. Ken Porter, program manager with the society, said it had received a total of approximately $14,000 from Loughman’s various fundraising activities to date, and will receive additional funds from this year’s Unmask Mental Health and Mental Images events.

“Mike is an inspiration to a lot of people and it’s very disheartening to see individuals trying to undermine and discourage such a generous and outgoing person like Mike,” Porter said.

Quinn Donaldson, manager at the Airdrie Food Bank, confirmed it received donations from Unmask Mental Health in 2015 and 2016 totaling approximately $7,800.

Laurie Jacob-Toews, community development services manager at North Rocky View Community Links (NRVCL), said resources for adult victims of cyberbullying are limited; however, anyone who feels they are being bullied online is welcome to take advantage of the organization’s counselling, including its drop-in counselling program.

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