Faces of Mental Illness 2015
Julie’s struggle with mental illness began at age 14 when she was diagnosed with agoraphobia and panic disorder. In the years following her diagnosis, she was hospitalized and required medication on a daily basis. She also faced many years of instability, having had to move over 30 times and attend 8 schools in order to finish high school. Yet, she managed to receive her diploma on time. It is Julie’s rocky past that helped shape who she is today. She is now a strong woman with a passion for helping others struggling with similar issues. She gives conferences about mental health and does volunteer work for various organizations. She is a member of the Longueuil mental health consultative committee and volunteers on the Boards of RHCS and CFHR, two non-profit organizations in her community. She also worked as a youth and adult facilitator at the CMHA in Wood Buffalo, Alberta. A major accomplishment for Julie was when she finally completed her first television interview at TVRS in Longueuil. Julie’s story is one of great bravery and perseverance. She credits her optimism and continuous inner strength to all her successes.
Wali’s struggle with depression and anxiety began after being arrested at age 15. Wali came to Canada from Pakistan and struggled with cultural pressures which led to a long period of isolation and rejection following his arrest. Wali believes our education system and teachers play a pivotal role in supporting youth who struggle. In fact, he credits past teachers as mentors who really helped him change his life. He decided to share his story with youth and reached out to media outlets such as MTV, Education Canada, and The Toronto Star in hopes of using his experience to help others. Today, Wali studies sociology at the University of Toronto and works as a youth mentor at Nexus Youth Services. Wali has earned an incredible social media following and, as a result, has brought significant awareness to mental health. Wali’s actions towards building a better community have not gone unnoticed. In 2014, he was awarded one of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 by the Order of Canada and this year, he received Safe City Mississauga’s Bell Youth Hero Award as a speaker/musician for using his artistic talents to raise awareness about mental health.
RCMP Constable Peter Neily was involved in a fatal shooting while on the job in Surrey B.C. in 2011 that had serious lingering emotional effects. Peter was suffering silently with post-traumatic stress related to an operational stress injury. After many years of self-stigmatisation, Peter had a breakthrough moment during Mental Illness Awareness Week 2014. He decided to take a brave step and share his story with his RCMP colleagues through a video. This resulted in an incredible outpouring of support from his colleagues, many of whom opened up about their own struggles with mental illness. Seeing the positive impact it had, Peter is no longer apologetic of his story and the video has since been released publicly so those outside the force can learn from Peter’s experiences. Today, Peter continues to share his experience with posttraumatic stress on and off the job with the intention of reaching out to the community and helping others who struggle. He wants first responders and support personnel to know that there are resources available and that on the job stress can have an impact on life, but you can get help!
After a long battle with bulimia beginning in her teens, Patricia is proud to call herself an eating disorder survivor. Although she occasionally suffers from food anxiety, Patricia is now in control of her life and ready to help others struggling with mental illness. As part of her ongoing healing process, Patricia began her advocacy as a blogger on www.healthyplace.com where she shared her personal experience and road to recovery. As a result, she now has an active social media presence and uses this platform to provide peer support. In her community, she also volunteers on the Board of TRACOM, a Montreal crisis center offering psychosocial intervention services for adults as well as their loved ones. In 2014, Patricia was invited to testify about her lived experience with an eating disorder at the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women (FEWO), in Ottawa. Patricia’s experiences with mental illness have greatly shaped her perception of what it means to be healthy.
Kendra was just 19 when she was accepted onto Team Canada’s under-22 women’s hockey team. To an observer, it seemed things couldn’t be going better; however, Kendra realized something was not right. No longer able to function with the challenges she was facing, she voluntarily walked away from Team Canada and her lifelong dream in order to seek help. Kendra was subsequently diagnosed with generalized anxiety, severe panic disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive compulsive disorder and clinical depression. Since her diagnosis and finding recovery, Kendra has made tremendous efforts to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. She is a professional speaker and mental health advocate. Through her organization mentallyfit, Kendra works with numerous school boards, hospitals and mental health organizations, as well as within the corporate field. She is the spokesperson for the RBC Run for the Kids initiative in support of youth mental health at Sunnybrook Hospital. Kendra is also an avid supporter of the LGBTQ community, working with organizations such as You Can Play. Although Kendra’s dreams of becoming a professional hockey player may not have been realized, the passion and drive she demonstrated on the ice is now present in her efforts to build a better, healthier and stronger community.
The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) is pleased to invite nominations from the public for its Faces of Mental Illness campaign. For the past many years, CAMIMH has been proud to organize and host the courage of Canadians who have stepped up in determination and in hopes of becoming a Face of Mental Illness. They have come to the campaign with their unique and diverse stories and backgrounds showing Canadians that mental illness has many Faces – faces that are recognizable to us all. CAMIMH’s Faces campaign created the first organized opportunity for Canadians to convene a very public discussion about mental illness; discussion which is critical to creating awareness and decreasing stigma.
Self-nominations and nominations for others are welcome. If nominating someone else, please verify that the person you are nominating is agreeable to the nomination. On the nomination form, describe your or their mental health journey. Tell us about what you experienced, what has made your journey difficult and what has made it easier. Tell us where you have been, where you are now and where you hope to go in your journey. Feel free to let us know who or what has helped you in your journey and what, in your view, is critical to recovery when it comes to mental illness.
If selected as a Face of Mental Illness, you will have an opportunity to tell your story to Canada through public service announcements (PSAs) developed by CAMIMH and aired over a variety of media outlets in October of that year. You will also be invited to a celebratory event in Ottawa in October during Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) as well as advocacy meetings on Parliament Hill, designed to continue public discussion about mental health and mental illness. In addition, you will be invited to attend CAMIMH’s Champion’s Gala the following calendar year and to participate in Bell’s Let’s Talk Campaign.
A selection committee from CAMIMH will review and coordinate the selection of Faces. Consideration will be given not just to the stories told but also to ensuring that as a group, the Faces represent a range of people, mental illnesses and stories from across Canada. A short list of candidates will be developed based on submitted nominations. Those short-listed will then be invited to a telephone meeting. The purpose of the telephone meeting is to ensure that candidates fully understand and are comfortable with the Faces role and to answer any questions they may have.