Advocacy Through Faces Campaign Makes For Memorable Year

Sharing my story for the first time was difficult.

It was back in 2014 and I was unsure how my openness and honesty was going to be received by my hometown, my family and the mental health community.

The reaction, overwhelmingly, has been positive. The personal messages, phone calls and pats on the back are now part of the experience. I cherish seeing others inspired by what my family and I have been through.

There have also been some moments where I have cringed and other times where I wished I hadn’t read the comments others have posted on social media.

But I have learned those moments also have great value. For some, my story makes them uncomfortable. That, too, is fine. Delivering the message of hope and recovery even when it may not be welcomed is how change is going to happen. It’s how we, as advocates for mental health, will shift perspectives and open minds.

Over the last year I have had an even greater opportunity to share my story and reach new audiences.

Just under a year ago I was named as one of five people to participate in the Faces of Mental Illness campaign by the Canadian Alliance of Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH).

Including me in the Faces campaign was a bold move by CAMIMH.

There remains a great deal of stigma surrounding mental illness. There is even more stigma facing an illness like mine. People struggle to understand schizophrenia and how a tragedy can be the starting line for recovery.

And I get that. 

I loved my grandmother.

She remains a huge part of my life as her memory fuels this new chapter in my life.

Their selection of me to be a part of their campaign CAMIMH has chosen the road less travelled. They have not run from the stigma facing complex mental illness. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

I also appreciate the opportunities CAMIMH and the Faces campaign have provided. Since being named a Face in 2017 I have spoken at a Canadian Mental Health Association fundraiser and at the Peace of Minds Walk for Schizophrenia and guest lectured at Wilfred Laurier University.

I have also participated in several media interviews, including a story with Susan Hay of Global news.

I also travelled to Ottawa to meet with Members of Parliament and to Toronto to film a public service announcement.

At each opportunity I spoke about schizophrenia and my grandmother while also advocating for increased funding and greater investment in research for mental illness.

I credit CAMIMH and the Faces campaign for helping change the conversation around schizophrenia and other complex mental illnesses. This is important work that is shaping how society views mental illness. 

During National Mental Health Week (May 7-13) I will travel to Ottawa to attend CAMIMH’s Champions of Mental Health Awards dinner. It will be my final appearance as a member of the Faces campaign.

I would like to personally thank CAMIMH for believing in me and giving me an even stronger voice to advocate for change. I would also like to thank all of you who I have spoken to and who have been a part of my recovery journey.

It has been an amazing year.