Karim Mamdani

Ontario Shores

Karima Velji

Sanaz Riahi

#NVW2021 - 'I can continue to encourage others to share their story'

I began volunteering at Ontario Shores three years ago without any clear goals of where I wanted to end up or what area I would fit best in. Eventually, I began volunteering in Recovery College which focuses on providing education about mental illness, treatment, passion, hope and meaning.

This is where I began my mental health storytelling journey.

People struggling with mental illness are often getting their story told for them by their family member, friend or a medical professional.

I wanted to use my skills and personal experiences to facilitate a course in Recovery College so I began instructing “My Story, My Voice,” where I teach the individuals how to tell their own story about their mental health struggles and recovery and ultimately help them learn to be comfortable with sharing their stories.

The course focuses on instructing the patients on how to make their story impactful for others - and most importantly in their own way.

I was teaching the course at the hospital before the pandemic and am currently teaching it online via zoom. I was amazed with the level of engagement that is still present despite not being able to be together.

As an Ambassador of Hope, I had the privilege of participating in various events for the hospital both internally and externally during their 100th year anniversary campaign where I focused on going out in the community and being vocal about sharing my journey with different audiences and organizations.

It’s important to be a mental advocate because I have been managing my own mental illness for several years and this would have never happened if it wasn’t for the help, patience, education and resources offered at Ontario Shores. After completing their Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), I was finally free from the negativity I felt overwhelmed with years ago.

Recovery College is a safe haven where we can talk openly and honestly about our stories, emotions and fears. This volunteer opportunity allows me to continue to engage with the community and make sure our voices are heard.

By instructing the Recovery College course, I can continue to encourage others to share their story and put an end to the stigma surrounding mental illness.

I will continue to advocate for Ontario Shores because without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.