Protecting Minds - 'I learned to ask for help'

I’m 41, a wife, a mother of three and an environmental services housekeeper, living in Whitby, Ontario. 

I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder 12 years ago.

Medication works for others but unfortunately didn’t work for me. I attempted to commit suicide a few months after giving birth to my youngest child. So, instead of medication I found other solutions to coping such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), fitness and mindfulness. 

After not working for several years, I was offered a job at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Services (Ontario Shores) in the environmental services department. This was a huge step forward for me and I was so grateful I was accepted and appreciated in a facility that supports mental health. I wanted to work somewhere that I can help others going through the same struggles as me.

There is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness. I learned to ask for help and that was my biggest step forward in dealing with my disorder.

I’m advocating for Ontario Shores because I see firsthand the great work they provide to their patients so they can reach their recovery goals.

I’m able to resonate with patients I see every day and give them hope that they can live a happy life with a mental illness - just like me.

I also want people to understand the importance of my department during a pandemic. I worked in isolation for three months in full PPE for eight hours, five days a week, ensuring all stations and washrooms were constantly cleaned for the safety of our staff and patients. 

In the beginning of Covid-19, patients weren’t allowed visitors and couldn’t go outside and a lot of the time they were in crisis. Myself and my coworkers did our best to ensure they didn’t feel alone and we continued to build strong relationships with them to help life their spirits.

Advocating for mental health is huge for me. I decided to make compassion t-shirts for our staff because compassion exemplifies understanding, patience and acceptance. Being able to wear these shirts with my coworkers is great because we are embodying empathy within our organization and letting our patients know they are not alone - we are here for them every step of the way.

I’m working on new ways of team building and started “spirit days” alongside my management team who have been a huge support for me and my team. It helps spreads positivity when days are dark.

I want to continue to advocate and support Ontario Shores and give back to them. Ontario Shores goes above and beyond to provide resources for not only their patients, but their staff as well. I’m grateful to be part of a team that ensures everyone’s mental health is cared for. 

If I share my story, we can create more conversations and encourage others to ask for help when they need it. We must allow ourselves to feel our emotions, talk about them and take the necessary steps in getting the support we need. 

Beginning during Mental Illness Awareness Week and throughout October, Ontario Shores and the Ontario Shores Foundation for Mental Health are embarking on a fundraising campaign to support programs and initiatives that assist people living with mental illness. Participants from all over Ontario volunteered to share their personal connection with mental illness to reduce stigma and increase funding for much-needed programs. Learn more at www.ProtectingMinds.ca.