Protecting Minds - 'I have a voice and want to use it'

Growing up as a girl of Jamaican descent in a predominantly white community, I had a difficult time in school and at home.

In grade 7, my family moved from Ajax to Whitby. Leaving my friends behind was difficult. My anxiety and depression controlled me so much that I began secluding myself. I was feeling so many emotions that I didn’t know how to release in healthy matter and I began to self harm. 

I went to high school and Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) offered a mental health summit for select students to attend and I was chosen.

This was the first time I heard someone talk about mental illness openly.

I shared my story with the speaker and asked where I could get help myself and I was connected to Ontario Shores’ outpatient adolescent services. I learned coping strategies that helped me stop self harming and manage my depression and anxiety.

I went off to college and graduated with a diploma in child and youth services. Things at home escalated following my parents’ divorce.

I wanted to give up and attempted suicide.

Upon my release from the hospital, I was still struggling with mental illness. I belonged to a predominantly black church community but due to lack of education and awareness, their views on mental health felt negative and I felt like I didn't fit in anywhere.

I was connected to T.A.M.I (Talking About Mental Illness) Durham and began public speaking about my struggles. I appreciated being apart of their organization because in my community no one spoke about mental illness. I got to be the voice when everyone else feared the stigma.

I went back to Ontario Shores’ outpatient program so I could focus on my mental health and have been moving forward ever since.

I am passionate about sharing my story and taking part in mental health advocacy. I’ve co-facilitated groups at Ontario Shores, was featured in their #5in5 campaign and launched a peer-support group for the Durham community.

I became a counsellor where, before the pandemic, I went into schools and meet with kids that needed help. I had a self-care routine and not being able to leave the house has impacted my mental health. Hope is what keeps me pushing. Although we are living in hard times, hope isn’t gone.

I’m 29, single, and spend my free time writing blogs on my social media to let people know they are not alone. Since moving to Orillia, I hope to use my experience to impact the audience here.

I want my face to continue to reduce the stigma in the black and Christian communities and use my diversity to make a difference.

I’m advocating for Ontario Shores’ because they changed my life. They pushed me to see my potential. I have a voice and want to use it to give back to the organization that saved me.

Mental health services are needed today. People are still hiding their struggles and it’s important we support such an important organization.

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.