Protecting Minds - 'Working the front lines during a pandemic creates a roller coaster of emotions'

I’ve felt firsthand the negative effects of the pandemic.

I am 49, from Oshawa, Ontario and work as a sales representative at PepsiCo Foods Canada. Although much of my role focuses on managing the business, I spend a lot of my time in stores working with the public.

Working the front lines during a pandemic creates a roller coaster of emotions. Every day there is a new procedure to follow.

Life in general changed. I realized things were going to be this way for a while and we must adjust our thoughts and behaviours so we don’t work ourselves up.

Some days are harder than others, but my employer has given me the leeway to make the decisions I need to so I don’t become overwhelmed. They have ensured we have proper PPE so we can be safe and to do our jobs efficiently. 

Helping others is something I’ve been passionate about since childhood. 

I’ve been connected to Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) since I was a child with both my uncle and mother working there. It was during this time I began to gain compassion for mental illness through their lived experiences and stories.

My husband and I have a golden retriever, Aspyn, who has helped lift the moods of patients within the hospital. I was lucky enough to become a volunteer at Ontario Shores prior to the pandemic where I visited the hospital on a weekly basis with Aspyn.

She provided pet therapy to the residents on various units in the hospital, lifting the spirits of people from different age groups and life situations. I’m proud to build connections through Aspyn and see the positive change she has on others who are struggling with mental illness.

Seeing the positivity radiate in people who would experience low moods and battle various mental health disorders is something I’m so grateful I could have ever experienced and a unique way to connect with patients from the traditional methods of medication and therapy.

We aren’t always raised with the proper resources to deal with mental illness. Ontario Shores ensures they provide these tools to help people cope and come out the other side.

I am proud to be involved in Ontario Shores’ campaign and to connect with an organization that works as hard as they do to break down the barriers to mental illness.

I want to do more and I encourage others to be open and honest about their illness so we can break down the stigma preventing people from getting the help they need. I’ve seen the difference a furry friend has in uplifting spirits of people who once thought there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

Please help Ontario Shores by supporting their services and programs that provide people struggling with mental illness a brighter future.

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.