- Andrea Paquette
Andrea Paquette, AKA Bipolar Babe, was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at the age of 25 and she suffered deeply with psychosis, mania and depression resulting in two hospitalizations. Andrea experienced a very serious suicide attempt, but over time, she has accepted her illness and found hope in sharing her personal story with others. In 2009, she created the Bipolar Babe Project (http://www.bipolarbabes.com) and Andrea is now the Founder and Executive Director of the Stigma-Free Society, formerly the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia. She is also co-founder of the Stigma-Free Zone Program (http://www.stigmafreezone.com) and the Society’s Task-Force is excited to make Vancouver the first stigma-free city in Canada. She has presented her story to over 12,000 people, including youth in schools and numerous organizations across British Columbia. Andrea has received great recognition for her work as the 2015 Courage To Come Back Award Winner from Coast Mental Health, 2015 Top 20 Under 40 Award for Vancouver Island, 2013 Mel Cooper Citizen of the Year in Victoria, B.C. and the 2013 Award for Youth Mentorship from the National Council for Behavioral Health, Washington D.C. Andrea shares her personal message far and wide that “No matter what our challenges, we can all live extraordinary lives.”Dexter Nyuurnibe
For Dexter, talking about mental health was never something that was openly discussed. Having grown up living in various countries with a single father, he found himself repeatedly as someone who didn’t fit in because of what he looked like. That, along with a traumatic incident at a young age would follow him into university. Dexter’s mental health struggle came to its peak when he tried ending his life in his 3rd year of school. Being diagnosed with depression and facing homelessness, Dexter wondered why no one talked about mental health in his community. This would lead him to disclosing his battle through the school newspaper. Since then, Dexter has helped organize awareness events, presented a Tedx talk, spoken at summits, universities and high schools and shared his story at a session of the World Bank and WHO in Washington D.C. He’s now working on a project called Dance For Depression that looks to get youth dancing for hope, perseverance and recovery. Dexter lives with Dysthymia and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.Samuel Breau
An engaged leader and advocate since a young age, Samuel’s journey towards recovery began during university. Since his early childhood, Samuel noticed that he was constantly worried by big questions that no one else his age could relate to. Then after moving from rural New Brunswick to Ottawa and facing the high expectations from university, scholarships and peers, Samuel became more aware than ever that he may be living with a mental illness. He subsequently sought treatment for a generalized anxiety disorder. Today, he uses tools and techniques to keep his anxiety manageable and continues to maintain an active and engaged life. Drawing from social and cultural experiences as a linguistic minority and gay man, Samuel combines professional and personal experiences to deliver powerful messages and fight stigma, while carrying out his projects with confidence. He highly values his family and friends who feed his spirit and motivate him to evoke change and promote mental health and recovery for all.Stéphanie Fontaine
This year marks the 15th anniversary of Stéphanie’s recovery from bipolar disorder. Before receiving her diagnosis, she was hospitalized on two occasions for depressive and manic episodes that included psychotic elements. In order to resume her activities and the pursuit of her dreams, Stéphanie reached out for professional help with respect to medication, psychotherapy and music therapy. She also turned to community resources which helped her better self-manage her symptoms. The presence or her family and loved ones, together with her employers’ support, were also key to her recovery.
She leads a fulfilling life despite having to manage some residual symptoms. In addition to having led a great career as an actuary, she has travelled the ocean with her husband and son aboard their sailboat. Recently, she put aside her actuarial career to join Revivre, a non-profit organization, with a mandate to make their mental health self-management workshops available to all.
Stephanie’s story demonstrates that no one is immune to mental illness, and that everyone can aspire to recover from it.
- Julie Tansey
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 Shah
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.Peter Neily
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!Patricia Lemoine
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 Fisher
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.
- Aidan Scott
Aidan’s mental illness emerged from a history of childhood abuse. Aidan has faced challenges such as nightmares, anxiety attacks, and even dissociation. Clinically, he has been diagnosed with Anorexia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Dissociative Identity Disorder. Aidan initially sought support through peers online before seeking therapy. He also reached out to friends, professionals, and in times of crisis the support of Kids Help Phone.
Aidan wants others to know that the road to recovery isn’t always straightforward, but you can get there. He believes in ACT!ON for people across the mental health spectrum, particularly those who are either early in recovery, or are yet to come forward with their struggle. He now regularly speaks to high schools and conferences notably, the BC Patient Safety & Quality Councils Quality Forum, and the Vancouver Healthy Minds Youth Summit: Building a Mindful Community.
Aidan has made it his mission to reduce stigma and expand accessibility to professional care, he therefore launched SpeakBOX, a first of its kind company developing digital mental health treatment services paired with the support and inclusion of peer support programs.
For Aidan, ACT!ON is part of the journey.Jack Saddleback
Jack is a Cree two-spirit transgender man. Born a biological female, he came to understand that his inner identity didn’t match his outer experience. As a gender-queer child, Jack struggled with constant bullying. Jack’s mental health deteriorated throughout his teenage years resulting in a severe depression and ultimately a suicide attempt at 15. Jack’s road to recovery has been challenging, dealing with stigma, discrimination, and especially a lack of adequate services in rural Alberta.
Jack’s appreciation for his family’s devotion pushed him to ACT!ON such as applying for the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Youth Council. As the former University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union’s Pride Centre Coordinator, and the current USSU Vice President of Student Affairs, Jack is a strong leader for mental health.
Jack has also helped to create “safe-space” for queer people within First Nations cultural ceremonies by establishing gender-neutral sweats and pipe-ceremonies on campus. Jack’s culture plays a huge role in his well-being. To be able to partake in ceremonies that celebrate all aspects of his identity helps him to continue to take an active role in mental health advocacy. Jack recognizes that all people have a mental health and we owe it to ourselves to talk about it.
For Jack, ACT!ON is a must.Kathleen Dugas
Kathleen was diagnosed as Type II bipolar in 2011. Prior to receiving a diagnosis, she had been living with the illness without help or medication for 25 years. Like so many people who live with mental illness, she felt reluctant to reach out for help until she hit rock bottom and was near death. Even as Kathleen encouraged her own mother to accept her bipolarity, she self-stigmatized.
Today, Kathleen’s life is completely different; she is healthy, stable, and happy. She has a loving spouse and her two daughters are happier and more confident since Kathleen found her own recovery. Kathleen is currently working at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal. She takes her medication and applies the ideas she learned in therapy to maintain her mental health. Kathleen refuses to be crushed by the label of mental illness.
In 2013, she participated in the “Suicide is Not an Option” campaign of the Association Québécoise de prévention du suicide, agreeing to share her story. Kathleen thinks it’s unacceptable for people in distress to hesitate to get help because they fear being judged. So she doesn’t hesitate to talk about her experience and recovery and she shares every chance she gets.
For Kathleen ACT!ON is important.Lindsay Hill
Lindsay was a successful Bay Street litigator when mental illness struck suddenly, unexpectedly and severely. Since then, with the support of her family, friends, and a team of medical professionals, she has survived numerous profoundly suicidal episodes.
Lindsay is now a passionate advocate for mental health. Her journey as an advocate began as a deputant to the Toronto Transit Commission on the need for platform-level distress lines. The result was ground-breaking TTC/Distress Centres/Bell Canada “Crisis Link” Program. She also recently joined the Board of the Distress Centres, and has spoken on several occasions about her experiences, including to nearly 2,000 motorcycle riders in the B.A.D. (Bikers Against Despair) Ride.
Lindsay has experienced the impact of mental illness on her career, and felt its stigma through her own initial belief that she could recover through sheer willpower, and the loss of friends after her diagnosis. Lindsay now knows that individuals experiencing mental illness need support and she is convinced that the stigma can be overcome through the sharing of information and lived experiences. For Lindsay, ACT!ON is an important part of recovery.Mark Henick
Mark grew up in small town Atlantic Canada, where options were few and hope often seemed defeated by circumstance. Following a suicide attempt as a teen, Mark was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Later, he wanted to speak about his experiences with his peers. He was discouraged from doing so and the stigma only added to his symptoms. So, Mark took to the pages of his local newspaper, writing about his experience with major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, suicide attempts, bullying, and the stigma he faced. Immediately, people started sharing their own stories with him. Taking ACT!ON turned out to be an important part of his recovery.
Mark is now a mental health counsellor, helping others conquer stigma and systemic barriers. He has been the youngest president of a Canadian Mental Health Association division in national history, and he has participated in the creation of both provincial and national mental health strategies. He currently serves as the youngest member of the Board of Directors for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. In 2013, Mark delivered a wildly successful TEDxToronto talk on his experience with suicide. He continues to write and speak regularly about his lived experience.
Mark knows, we must ACT!ON Mental Health.
- Karen Aujla
Karen Aujla is a student living in recovery from bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), from Surrey British Columbia. Struggling for many years with self harm, Karen finally came out and asked for help following her first suicide attempt at age 15. From the deep depths of depression to the sunny hypo-manic highs, Karen describes her behavior as unpredictable. Until, one day her mom said to her “life only gives you what you can handle, if anyone can fight this, it’s you.” In November of 2011, Karen was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 16. It took until age 18 to find the right medications and treatment for her. Karen dealt with many ups and down on her road to recovery often questioning why her mind wouldn’t allow her to maintain the feelings of elation brought on by the hypo-manic state. Karen attributes medications and cognitive behavioural therapy to allowing her to reach stability. Karen now works with the Mood Disorders Association of BC as the youngest member of their Speakers Bureau to raise awareness about mental illness. She is particularly keen to reach members of her own East Indian culture whom she feels have even greater hurdles to overcome understanding mental illness and seeking treatment for those who may need it.
For Karen, Recovery is Possible.Marli Brown
Marli Brown is a social worker in recovery from bipolar disorder, anxiety, dissociation disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder from Dauphin, Manitoba. Marli describes her outward appearance as being very high functioning, receiving high marks and scholarships, and acting as student body president, despite her inner struggle with mental illness. After years of turmoil, she ended up in a psychiatric hospital at the age of 19. Marli persevered for many years to find the right combination of treatment for her symptoms. After a massive bout with postpartum depression and psychosis, Marli was referred to a clinical psychologist who spent a lot of time developing trust to allow Marli to trust in the process for finding recovery. While in and out of hospitals, Marli was able to attain a Bachelor of Social Work degree in 2011, and now works full time in the field. Marli now uses public speaking to address stereotypes and stigma. Marli is a proud wife and mother who works to create awareness about the effect of mental illness on family members who she feels are often over looked in the process of healing.
For Marli, Recovery is Possible.Arthur Gallant
Arthur Gallant is a mental health advocate and consultant living with anxiety disorder and dysthymia, from Burlington, Ontario. Arthur was born to a mother with mental illness before being diagnosed with depression and anxiety when he was 13. Arthur was raised for years by his grandmother until, due to illness she was unable to care for him. As a young boy, Arthur cared for his mother until eventually he ended up in the custody of the Children’s Aid Society from the ages of 9 to 18. During his years as a Crown Ward, Arthur lived in 16 different group and foster homes. Often, Arthur felt like he was isolated and questioned as to why he was feeling so different from his peers and caregivers. Arthur was stigmatized a lot by his peers so it has been vital to Arthur’s recovery to build trusting and long lasting relationships by a group of people that includes people his age but also professionals overseeing his care. Arthur has chosen to use his experience to educate and reform mental health practices. He has become a Youth Council member for the Mental Health Commission of Canada and is Co-Chair of the Service User Expert Panel at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. He has also spoken out about his experience in the healthcare system to numerous media outlets. Arthur has been able to attain a sense of pride knowing his voice has created change and reform.
For Arthur, Recovery is Possible.Bernard Saulnier
Bernard Saulnier is a mental health blogger living in recovery from paranoid schizophrenia, from Montreal, Quebec. Bernard started to become very ill at the age of 24. He felt cut off from the world because he was no longer able to work. He describes his recovery, over a period of 15 years, as a series of small steps, beginning with the critical call for help. This call for help led to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, treatment and now he lives in recovery. Now, when Bernard speaks about himself, the word “citizen” always comes up. He is proud of how far he has come and explains very candidly that, before his diagnosis, he felt the word “citizen” did not apply to him. He is now a very active citizen as a member of the support group Reprendre Pouvoir (Taking Back Power), a blogger, and an author with five works published by Éditions Hache. He participates actively in organizing care and services at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, as a patient and partner. He was also a spokesperson for the Bal des Lumières, the largest fund-raising activity benefitting mental health initiatives held to date in Quebec.
For Bernard, Recovery is Possible.Lenore Zann
Lenore Zann is a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Nova Scotia with 17 years of recovery from substance abuse. Lenore is an award-winning actor, singer, writer, producer – and now MLA. She grew up in Truro, Nova Scotia before leaving home to study Drama and Political Science at York University in Toronto. At 19 she received a breakthrough – a starring role as Marilyn Monroe in the rock-opera “Hey Marilyn!” at which point her acting career took off and continued successfully in productions around the world for 30 years. In her early 20’s however, in the midst of constant travel, Lenore began to experience daily anxiety and started to use alcohol as a way of controlling her moods. Eventually the anxiety became mixed with bouts of depression until, at the age of 36 (the same age Marilyn Monroe died from her addictions) Lenore became aware she had a serious problem. “I came to the conclusion that the braver choice was to seek help so I could live – instead of dying young like Marilyn.” At 36 Lenore became sober and has never looked back. She realized quickly however that getting sober was only half of the healing journey. Seventeen years later Lenore has remained sober and learned how to live with more balance and self care – although she admits she has a tendency to be a workaholic in her new “role” as MLA. “But”, she says “Life is a journey and I continue to learn and grow every day.” Lenore speaks openly about her experience, demonstrating strong advocacy for mental health and addictions recovery. As an MLA and Ministerial Assistant for the Environment Lenore is not afraid to speak out – not just on behalf of her community but as a champion for the Arts, Environment, First Nations and other Diversity issues, as well as the empowerment of Women. Lenore’s ongoing goal is to inspire people to work together to create a more equal, compassionate, and just society. She continues to use her creative talents as well to spread the word. Her powerful message is captured on a recent CD she recorded called “Change the World”. As Lenore says, “It is never too late to change the world (or oneself) for the better – if we simply take action.”
For Lenore, Recovery is Possible.
- Sandra Yuen MacKay
Sandra Yuen MacKay is a Canadian-born Chinese artist, author, and public speaker living in Vancouver, British Columbia. At fourteen, she began experiencing delusions, hallucinations, and severe paranoia. Despite her current diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, Sandra earned a Fine Arts diploma, an Art History degree, and has shared her story with thousands of Canadians in an effort to offer hope to others living with mental illness. She exhibits her vivid paintings with The Art Studios in Vancouver and published My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness, an inspiring memoir which has received international acclaim. Sandra was also the proud recipient of the Coast Mental Health 2012 Courage to Come Back Award in the mental health category. She credits meta-cognitive therapy, her loving husband of eighteen years, a strong personal support system, and self-determination for her success. Sandra wants others living with mental illness to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel: you just have to reach out for help to find it.
For Sandra, Recovery is Possible.Laurie Pinard
Laurie Pinard is an exercise enthusiast and running instructor living in Ottawa, Ontario. Throughout young adulthood, Laurie struggled to understand the dramatic highs and lows of her emotions, and it was not until her early forties that she received the correct diagnosis of bipolar disorder. After hitting rock bottom, resulting in the loss of her career and all her possessions, Laurie decided to fight for her life. She sought help in the form of psychiatry, nutritional supplements, mental health courses, and exercise. Through this multifaceted support system, Laurie found a strength and resolve she never knew she had. It was a newfound sense of hope that pushed Laurie to finally share her story with the world in 2011. Her bravery was met with an outpouring of support and she hopes to encourage others to take ownership of their illness and seek the help they need. Laurie represents self-determination and resiliency, and plans to become a mental health counsellor to help others living with mental illness discover their own strengths to create a healthy and fulfilling life.
For Laurie, Recovery is Possible.Chantal Poitras
Chantal Poitras works for the tourism industry and has recently joined Partners for Mental Health as a volunteer. She lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Despite a blissfully happy childhood, in 2005, Chantal’s life took a turn for the worst when the emergence of unpredictable and erratic behavior changed her life forever. Scared and confused, Chantal struggled to find professional help in her native French language in a predominately Anglophone city. After reaching out to her local Canadian Mental Health Association, Chantal finally found the help she needed when she received her correct diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. She has been on a path to recovery ever since. Today, Chantal shares her story through her personal blog in the hopes of letting others know they are not alone and that they too can lead a healthy and productive life. Her inspirational story serves as an important reminder of the indiscriminate nature of mental illness and the importance of an official diagnosis and appropriate treatment for long-term recovery.
For Chantal, Recovery is Possible.Alicia Raimundo
Alicia Raimundo is public speaker and youth mental health advocate from Pickering, Ontario. Having struggled with depression and anxiety since childhood, Alicia explains her story as a metaphorical journey from one kind of superhero to another. Like Spiderman, Alicia felt she had to fight in the dark and mask her true identity. Eventually, tired of hiding, Alicia decided to put a face on mental illness and has since found her voice, transforming into something of an Ironman! Today, Alicia is an active mental health advocate, speaking at Universities across Canada to encourage young Canadians to remove the mask and embrace their own inner superhero. She also works closely with Mindyourmind, the University of Waterloo, and countless other organizations working to end the stigma associated with mental illness. Alicia insists the key to reaching young Canadians is by talking with them, instead of for them, and credits her active involvement in the mental health community as fundamental to her recovery.
For Alicia, Recovery is Possible.
- Harmony Brown
Harmony is a public speaker, mental health advocate and non-profit housing employee in Toronto, Ontario. Her struggles with mental health started as a child, but it wasn’t until she was 31, after losing her father to mental illness, that Harmony was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Two years into her recovery, Harmony’s youngest brother also took his own life. Her losses motivated her to share her experiences. As a volunteer with the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, she participated on a committee to develop a partnership with the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Through this initiative, Harmony has spoken to thousands of students, parents, and staff about mood disorders, stigma and early intervention. She also spreads these messages through her own business, Phoenix Rising. Harmony credits her recovery to an accurate diagnosis, a good psychologist, supportive friends, volunteering, faith and resilience. Harmony is a shining example of someone who works hard every day to break down the stigma associated with mental illness.
For Harmony, Recovery is Possible.Jeremy Bennett
Jeremy is an author, professional speaker and television personality from St. John’s, Newfoundland. Having overcome his own struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety, Jeremy is passionate about reaching out to those who currently battle these illnesses. He frequently travels and speaks publicly about his first book, “The Power of the Mind: How I Beat OCD”, and is currently in the process of writing his second, “Smile, You’re Perfect”, which will teach people how to embrace their authentic self. In addition to his writing, Jeremy continues to educate others on the signs and symptoms of OCD, so they can recognize and support those who live with the disorder. Jeremy attributes his recovery to embracing his illness and seeking professional help. He believes his experience with OCD has helped him grow as a person and develop a greater appreciation of life. Jeremy has found joy and fulfillment by sharing his journey of recovery, and continues to inspire people by challenging barriers and reducing stigma.
For Jeremy, Recovery is Possible.Roberta Price
Roberta is a mother, grandmother, and member of the Coast Salish Peoples in Richmond, British Columbia. At a time when many First Nations’ children were being placed in Residential Schools, Roberta was forcibly removed from her family and put into foster care. She was subjected to untold abuse and was required to abandon her First Nations’ identity. Roberta struggled for many years, enduring personal and family tragedies, too afraid to speak out about her anxiety and depression due to stigma. After a near death experience, Roberta sought professional support to work through her painful past and focus on the present. Roberta also found ways to heal and affirm her First Nations’ identity through Elders’ teachings. Roberta believes that sharing her story, continued support from health care professionals, and ongoing determination to help others have allowed her to manage her depression and PTSD. Despite her past struggles and experience with mental illness, Roberta’s strength and resilience allows her to achieve anything she puts her mind to. For Roberta, mental wellness is achievable.
For Roberta, Recovery is Possible.Shana Calixte
Shana is completing her PhD in Women’s Studies at York University, is the leader of a community organization, and is a loving partner and parent. At the age of 16, Shana was diagnosed with severe seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and after the birth of her son in 2006, she began to experience postpartum depression. Despite her lifelong struggles, Shana decided not to allow mental illness to be a barrier to a fulfilled life. Today, Shana is the Executive Director of the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA), a consumer/survivor initiative, where she proudly provides assistance to others living with mental illness. Shana attributes her recovery to putting her heart into her work, community support, speaking publicly about mental illness, and leading a healthy lifestyle. As a role model to people from all walks of life, Shana directly challenges stereotypes often attributed to those living with mental illnesses. By raising awareness and increasing understanding of mental illness, Shana inspires others to realize their gifts and their own potential to live a full, rewarding life.
For Shana, Recovery is Possible.Steeve Hurdle
Steeve is a support worker at a homeless shelter in Sherbrooke, Québec where he helps people in need improve their lives. He has struggled with a serious mood disorder since he was very young. As he got older, his mood disorders took over his life and led to drug addiction. In the year 2000, he lived through a near fatal heroin overdose and realized that he needed to turn his life around. With the help of his doctor and the Dollard-Cormier Center in Montreal, he has learned how to live with dysthymia, a chronic mood disorder. With the support of his loving family, he copes with his illness by educating himself and sharing his experiences openly. He lives life with great enthusiasm and believes it is important to demonstrate compassion towards others who are dealing with similar experiences. He is always willing to listen to others and never misses a chance to raise awareness of the day-to-day challenges faced by people living with mental health issues. He is not afraid of standing up and advocating for others.
For Steeve, Recovery is Possible.
- Christine Dubois
Christine is a mother, support worker, author, and volunteer from Asbestos, Québec. She has spoken publicly about mental illness for various organizations since 2004. Christine has been affected by generalized anxiety disorder since childhood, and was officially diagnosed at age 27. Three years later, she was also diagnosed with depression. The diagnoses ushered in a period of significant change for both Christine and her family. Christine wholeheartedly believes in taking on new challenges as part of her recovery. Her book « La depression, le plus beau cadeau de ma vie », describes depression as the greatest gift of her life. Christine believes her book can be a source of motivation not only for those living with mental illness, but also a tool for maintaining good mental health. Christine hopes that by writing and sharing her story, she can help put an end to the stigma and discrimination often associated with mental health issues. Christine believes everything happens for a reason, and that the challenges she’s faced have shaped the person she is today.
For Christine, Recovery is Possible.David Albert Newman
David is an Internal Audit Project Leader with the Province of Manitoba and is currently pursuing his Masters of Business Administration degree in Winnipeg, and then his Doctorate of Business Administration. David had a difficult childhood and often experienced depression and severe anxiety. He found it difficult as a young adult to keep a steady job and even relate to some members of his family. David was hospitalized in 2005 and was finally diagnosed with schizophrenia. With medication and social support from family, and from a highly skilled and empathetic Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Rehabilitation and Recovery worker, David has learned how to live with his mental illness and is open and honest about his experiences. Love and support from his family and girlfriend, leisure activities, and volunteering with the CMHA Winnipeg Region as Board Treasurer, help keep him balanced. He advocates for stigma reduction by positioning mental illnesses as similar to other health problems that require medication. David challenges others, including the media, to reconsider how they label people with mental health issues. For David, recovery is easier when the stigma is removed.
For David, Recovery is Possible.Dr. Ted Jablonski
When he isn’t moonlighting as “Dr. J”, the singer-songwriter who has 6 indie CD releases, Ted is a family physician who has taught and practiced family medicine for 25 years in rural Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan, northwestern Ontario and Calgary, Alberta. He has always had a special interest in mental health and wellness, which is a large part of his day-to-day clinical work. Ted has Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is challenging but also makes him an empathetic healthcare provider, as he better understands his patients’ struggles. Professional treatment, exercise and healthy lifestyle decisions help Ted manage his mental well-being. Ted believes a positive attitude and a holistic approach are essential to treatment and recovery. As part of the SAD no more Canadian Tour 2010, Ted will run, cycle and speak across Canada this fall to raise awareness of depression, specifically SAD, and inspire action to end the stigma associated with mental illness. For Ted, recovery is about regaining one’s balance, and embracing life to the fullest.
For Ted, Recovery is Possible.Marie Asuncion
Marie is a 25-year-old musician and English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher from Toronto. As a teenager, Marie became unorganized in school and began to hear voices telling her what to do. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 15, but doesn’t let her illness define her. With the help of medication, family support and her faith, Marie has been running towards her goals and has hit her stride – she was even chosen as a Torch Runner for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. She graduated from the University of Toronto Faculty of Music and has a private music studio teaching piano and harp. She also performs harp at weddings and events around Toronto. In addition to teaching harp and ESL to students, Marie is active in the Filipino community and volunteers across the province raising awareness and talking to youth and their families about schizophrenia and psychosis. She has also been featured in documentaries, radio ads and newspaper articles for her advocacy efforts. For Marie, giving back is something that comes naturally.
For Marie, Recovery is Possible.Jennifer Ashawasegai
Jennifer is an Anishinabek Nation citizen from Henvey Inlet First Nation, Ontario. She is a journalist who has written stories for North American Indigenous newspapers and is currently producing a national radio program reporting on Aboriginal news, culture and entertainment. Jennifer also lives with bipolar disorder. From the age of 12, she experienced alternating periods of depression and extreme happiness. Jennifer sought professional help and combines medical treatment with traditional First Nations healing methods that focus on body, mind and spirit. Her connection with her culture and her two children keep her grounded and focused on her goal of wellness. Creative outlets like writing, photography and art, and participation in cultural ceremonies, help her manage her illness. She is also a proud member of women’s hand-drum group Min We We. As a journalist, Jennifer has written about mental health issues to raise awareness and help reduce stigma. Jennifer has realized bipolar disorder does not define her, but it has shaped her life, and she has learned to live with it successfully.
For Jennifer, Recovery is Possible.
- Mark Gruchy
Meet Mark Gruchy. Mark is a criminal defence attorney in St. John’s, Newfoundland who was inspired to enter his field through his experiences with mental illness as a youth. His early struggle with bipolar disorder and family tragedy led him to drop out of high school, and he undertook a long journey to rejoin society. Mark experienced the full brunt of stigma and is troubled by the characterization of mental illnesses as negative phenomena. He feels this characterization prevents people from accepting their legitimate complete selves. He has developed a deep empathy for people who are judged and labeled, and believes society has a moral obligation to act against stigma. His life is guided by this principle, his firm belief in mercy, and the belief that the social reconciliation needed to address the question of mental health today, only comes with self-acceptance. He attributes his continued success to the love of his fiancé and family, and a supportive employer who allows him to be himself. Mark has found his place in the world, and is doing his best to help others find theirs.
Recovery is Possible.Etienne Gervais
Meet Etienne Gervais. Etienne is a 25 year old Quebec author from Montréal. Etienne has lived with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) since the age of 18. As a young adult, Etienne engaged in unstable relationships, attempted suicide several times and struggled with addiction. Etienne lost everything as a result of these destructive behaviours, and only then did he realize the key to his recovery was within himself. Etienne has since dedicated himself to writing. He wrote his first novel, L’ennemi en moi, to encourage understanding and support not only for people diagnosed with BPD, but also to promote awareness among those that are closest to people who live with mental illnesses. He is currently working on two new books as well as a documentary dealing with the struggles of youth and Borderline Personality Disorder. With a deep desire to improve the lives of others, Etienne wants and needs to share his story so people struggling with mental health issues do not have to feel alone and isolated.
Recovery is Possible.Brian Nootchtai
Meet Brian Nootchtai. Brian is a respected Elder on the Whitefish Lake First Nation in Naughton, Ontario. He is a family man who enjoys spending time with his friends and loved ones. Brian works as a Mental Health Case Worker for the North Shore Tribal Council and is committed to improving the quality of life for all Aboriginal people. As a child, Brian experienced the devastating psychological effects of sexual abuse. He has lived with depression and anxiety throughout his life, which eventually led him to seek help through traditional Aboriginal healing methods, such as the teaching of the medicine wheel, to deal with his mental health and addiction issues and seek balance and wellness in his life. Brian faces each day with gratitude for his Ojibway culture and is always willing to share his story in a way that honors his Aboriginal heritage. Brian wants others to understand that the stigma of mental illness is real, and hopes to show that people with mental illnesses can, and do lead fully functional and fulfilling lives.
Recovery is Possible.Arlene Mayes
Meet Arlene Mayes. Arlene is a Mental Health Support Worker from Winnipeg. She enjoys cooking, gardening and spending time with her friends and two grown children. Arlene experienced a traumatic event in her mid-thirties, which led to depression and a severe anxiety disorder called agoraphobia. Her fear of leaving the safety of her home not only changed Arlene’s life, but also affected the lives of her children and she realized she needed to seek help. Arlene connected with several mental health organizations in her community and is now working for a respite centre. She is currently involved in organizing a walk during Mental Illness Awareness Week that aims to bring an end to stigma associated with mental illness. She has overcome a debilitating mental illness and is an inspirational leader who helps others find hope and become empowered by their experiences with mental illness. Arlene truly believes that stigma will become a thing of the past and says, “you should not look down on anyone unless you are helping them up.”
Recovery is Possible.Raija Begall
Meet Raija Begall. Raija is a 20-year-old student from Thunder Bay, Ontario who studies nursing at Lakehead University and hopes to specialize in youth mental health. Raija loves being outdoors, listening to music, working with youth and expressing herself through her passion for writing. At 19, Raija authored a book called Breaking up with ED, which talks about her struggles growing up with an eating disorder (ED) accompanied by depression and anxiety. After being hospitalized for anorexia when she was 12, Raija realized eating disorders are not only about body image, but about control. She attributes her recovery to her acceptance of anorexia as a mental illness, and the support of friends, family and her peer advisory group. Raija aims to encourage people to accept who they are and realize their potential. She hopes that by sharing her story, she can inspire other youth and young adults to realize that they have the power to take control of their lives and to live every day to the fullest.
Recovery is Possible.
- Big Daddy Tazz
Meet Big Daddy Tazz. Tazz is a father and a comedian from Winnipeg who believes that the best way to deal with mental illness is to put on a positive face. For the last seven years he has run a comedy benefit for the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba, which has grown to include over 1,200 guests. Tazz enjoys making people laugh, and loves working with children. On stage, “Big Daddy Tazz, The Bipolar Buddha” shows his willingness to identify and embrace his illness, bipolar disorder. With loving support from his son, Tazz uses comedy and laughter to combat the stigma associated with mental illnesses. Tazz’s ability to share his experiences with candor and just the right amount of humour provides insight for people on the impact bipolar disorder can have on individuals and their families. Big Daddy Tazz shares his story through comedy to make a difference for people living with mental illness. As Tazz says, “It’s time to give stigma a bad name.”
Recovery is Possible.Sue Batson Feuer
Meet Sue Batson Feuer. Sue is a talented visual artist from Niagara-on-the-Lake and a strong and loving mother to her nine-year-old son. Being a parent motivates her battle to overcome chronic depression and anxiety. Following her diagnosis 16 years ago, Sue struggled to find the right balance of health care providers and medications that would allow her to pursue a career in the arts. Now she has the respect, compassion and professional health care she needs. Sue knows she is well when she creates, and her use of art as therapy has been featured in local media. Having a mental illness is a cultural taboo in many minority groups, but she refuses to be ashamed and lives openly with her illness. Sue shares her experiences because she believes when people with a mental illness are empowered to seek help, they can create the quality of life they truly want and deserve. Sue proves it is possible not only to cope, but to thrive.
Recovery is Possible.Annie Beaudin
Meet Annie Beaudin. Annie is a vibrant young woman from Montreal who volunteers at her seven year-old daughter’s school library. Annie suffered her first depression at age 14, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 15. When Annie decided that she wanted to have a child, she made the decision to discontinue her medication during her pregnancy. The decision was not without risks, but with the help and support of her doctor, Annie flourished. Her story was profiled by a local television channel and Annie is still touched by the number of strangers who share their own experiences with her. As an avid walker and runner, she believes in the benefits of keeping active and eating well. She has learned to accept and recognize the limitations of her illness, and surrounds herself with her wonderful husband, a loving family and caring friends. Annie aims to continue to increase awareness of mental illness to show that with support, it is possible to lead a normal life, build a family, and inspire hope.
Recovery is Possible.Kristy Reesor
Meet Kristy Reesor. Kristy is a 31 year old Albertan who loves being a full-time mom to her beautiful baby girl. She is a firm believer in the importance of fresh air, sunshine, and good nutrition. She enjoys spending time with friends, family and her pets, and participating in creative activities such as art and photography. For many years Kristy has struggled with her mood. She was identified as having depression as a teenager and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Kristy used a combination of traditional talk therapy and alternative healing treatments such as Nutritional Supplements, Gemstone Therapy, Bowen Therapy and Aromatherapy on her road to recovery. With the undying support of her family, friends, doctors and therapists, Kristy has found and embraced the illusive stability she has desperately yearned for. She has also recovered from a very frightening and difficult experience with Postpartum Depression. Kristy acknowledges the sad reality of the stigma facing people with mental illnesses. She believes that everyone has been touched by mental illness in one way or another, and rather than suffering in the dark, individuals with mental illnesses need to reach out and remember that they are loved, they are worthwhile, and they deserve to be well. Kristy’s life has become more fulfilling than she ever thought possible, and she wants to encourage people living with mental illness to not lose hope, and to not give up.
Recovery is Possible.Sherri Matsumoto
Meet Sherri Matsumoto. Sherri is a forty-six year old Japanese Canadian woman from Winnipeg who enjoys music, writing, painting, and poetry. She is a team member of the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society where she gives presentations and co-facilitates a workshop for children who have family members living with a mental illness. At the age of 14, Sherri was diagnosed with a mental illness, which was later identified as schizophrenia. Sherri spent many years in denial of this diagnosis, but realized she was mentally ill and needed assistance while in institutionalized care. She has a very supportive family and friends and continues to be a strong advocate within the mental health community promoting recovery oriented services. Sherri is courageously telling her story to help reduce stigma so that people who live with a mental illness are seen for who they are, and not for the illness they have. One of Sherri’s mottos is, “Respect never goes out of style, so don’t stop using it.”
Recovery is Possible.Tonya Alton
Meet Tonya Alton. If inspiring words and a kind spirit can change the world, then Tonya Alton is moving mountains with her shining personality and tireless dedication to the art of literature. Tonya’s story is that of an inspiring woman who has overcome the challenges of a mental illness to live a life of purpose and passion. Since being diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, Tonya has tirelessly toured the Okanagan raising awareness and educating young people about mental illness. Her physical courage led Tonya to participate in a “Naked Bungee Jump” to help raise funds for the BC Schizophrenia Society, while her spiritual courage allowed her to return to school after a prolonged absence to earn her high school diploma with honours. When she is not bungee jumping, giving presentations, and volunteering in the mental health community, Tonya continues to pursue her passion for writing. As a former columnist with The View in Lake Country newspaper, Tonya is a Canadian Historical fiction writer. Her first novel, Under the Sitka Tree, is a testament to Tonya’s positive attitude, skillful penmanship, remarkable creativity and passion for life.
To learn more about Tonya Alton and her work please visit http://www.tlalton.com
Recovery is Possible.Sharon Fawcett
Meet Sharon Fawcett. Sharon is a writer and speaker from New Brunswick who enjoys cycling, reading memoirs, and nature. With the love and support of her family, Sharon survived a three-year battle with anorexia nervosa and nine years of major clinical depression. Though she received excellent medical care for her mental illness—including eighty weeks as a patient in hospital psychiatric wards—Sharon’s pathway to healing ultimately came through addressing her illness’ spiritual roots. Since her recovery more than nine years ago, Sharon has become a bold ambassador of hope for those whose lives are touched by mental illness. She has been interviewed on national television and radio, published articles on eating disorders and depression, and written a book entitled, Hope for Wholeness: The Spiritual Path to Freedom from Depression. Sharon says, “There is no shame in having mental illness; the real shame is that people are suffering in silence when help and support are available.”
To learn more about Sharon Fawcett and her work please visit http://www.SharonFawcett.com
Recovery is Possible.Paul Mulrooney
Meet Paul Mulrooney. Paul is a devoted husband and father of two boys aged 12 and 13 from Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador. He is a proud hockey dad and attends as many of his sons’ games and practices as possible. Even in the depths of his illness, he made every attempt to go to the rink and support his children. Paul was diagnosed with Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder nine years ago. He has struggled through numerous trials to find the right medication to stabilize his mood. With effective drug treatment, combined with individual and group therapy, recovery became a reality for Paul. He believes that the love and support of his wife and children was the key to his recovery. Paul currently works full-time, prepares newsletters for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and attends university part-time. Paul has also volunteered as a consumer advisor for his local health board as well as the Canadian Mental Health Association. Paul has experienced discrimination in the workplace, and has been denied job opportunities as a result of his illness. By speaking out and being part of the MIAW campaign, Paul aims to reduce workplace discrimination so that people with mental illnesses can have the same opportunities as everyone else. “I am not ashamed of my illness” says Paul, “speaking openly is the only way to dispel the stigma associated with mental illnesses.”
Recovery is Possible.Jessica Timmings
Meet Jessica Timmings. Jessica is a student at the University of Toronto who enjoys reading for pleasure and watching movies with friends. She believes in taking time for herself and exercising regularly to find balance in her life. Jessica lives to run and there is nothing more exhilarating to her than crossing the finish line at the end of a road race. Jessica also lives with depression. She was first diagnosed at the age of seven, and has struggled to find stability for almost 15 years. With the love and support of her parents and sister, and with the help of her family doctor, Jessica can now recognize when to seek additional support or medication. Jessica works hard to keep her brain and body healthy, and doesn’t believe in complicating her body chemistry by drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs. She finds balance to be the most important thing in her life, and her stability and work ethic has put her on track to graduate with a double major in psychology and anthropology. Her personal and academic success has also motivated her to apply for a Master’s of Science in Forensic and Biological Archaeology at a University in the UK. Jessica is participating in the MIAW campaign to show that through hard work, people with mental illnesses can achieve balance in their lives and accomplish great things.
Recovery is Possible.Vicky Laforge
Meet Vicky Laforge. Vicky is a youth worker from Kingston, and member of the Nipissing First Nation. Vicky takes a holistic approach to health and strives to achieve a balance of mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well-being. This method of using both traditional healing and biomedical therapy helps her cope with anxiety attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Vicky has experienced devastating family tragedy and uses every resource available to her on her path to recovery, including education, exercise, prayer and therapy. Although she battles PTSD, Vicky is healthy, has a full-time job, and is regarded as someone who is able to be positive in the face of sadness. The support Vicky receives from her family helps keep her grounded, and she now uses her experiences constructively as a spokesperson against family violence in Aboriginal communities. Vicky is truly an inspiration for all.
Recovery is Possible.Beryle Garvin
Meet Beryle Garvin. Beryle is a vibrant 74-year-old woman from Brockville, Ontario who has sustained a healthy marriage and raised 3 wonderful children. She has just entered the “computer world” and enjoys learning how to navigate the internet. As a child, Beryle experienced stigma and discrimination as her father suffered from a serious mental illness, and eventually took his own life. In early adulthood, Beryle experienced her first depression, and has battled countless depressive episodes throughout her adult life. During her frequent periods of disability, Beryle struggled to raise her three children and maintain as “normal” an existence as possible with the help of her caring husband, but her illness necessitated frequent hospitalization. Beryle now feels that she is a participant in her own mental health care because public education about mental illness is more available, which provides her with a better understanding of her illness as well as treatment options. Her stabilization has been maintained by the involvement of a multi-disciplinary geriatric mental health community team, whom she credits with instilling a sense of hope when she could not create it herself. In addition, media efforts to de-stigmatize mental illnesses and ageism have helped Beryle feel less shame in her illness. Beryle is an advocate for seniors living with mental illnesses, and wants to be a spokesperson in hopes that she will inspire other seniors with mental illnesses to seek help, and know that they too, have support.
Recovery is Possible.Susan Roach
Meet Susan Roach. Susan is a compassionate and inspirational mental health peer support provider. In addition to serving as a Program Manager at a consumer-driven mental health drop-in center, Susan is co-host of a television show on mental health, as well as a trainer, facilitator, and accomplished speaker. Susan’s mission is to use her love of speaking, teaching and sharing to instill hope in those who suffer from mental illnesses. Her mission has certainly not been an easy one as she herself has battled the stigma of mental illness. As a teenager, Susan was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. Her symptoms made her vulnerable to mood swings, self-harming behavior and suicide attempts. However, rather than letting her diagnosis dictate her destiny, Susan overcame the stigma of mental illness and took firm hold of her future. Susan has since discovered new sources of joy and fulfillment: An empowering job, loving family and friends and new means of creative expression, like photography. By rejecting despair and sadness in favour of passion, hope and an insatiable hunger to help the vulnerable, Susan has served as a role model to thousands of Canadians who have lived experiences with mental illnesses. She is a true embodiment of the phrase: “Be the change you want to see.”
Recovery is Possible.Bonny Ball
Meet Bonny Ball. When Bonny’s 21 year old son died by suicide in June 1994, she was encouraged to be open about his cause of death. Her family, friends, faith community and workplace wrapped her in a warm blanket of non-judgmental care and compassion. Her hiking group let her talk until she was talked out. Toastmasters gave a safe place to practice speaking about suicide. Singing in her church choir helped the pain come out. Professional therapy helped keep her in balance. Support, openness, and compassion overcame the negativity of stigma before it could take root. Surrounded and strengthened by this support, Bonny was empowered to use her professional skills as a business analyst to “make a difference.” As a “survivor of suicide”, Bonny began attending the annual conference of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP). With the help of the professionals she met there, she developed the brochure “Living with Someone Who is Suicidal.” Since then Bonny has become active both locally and nationally, helping to “break the silence” by writing, giving media interviews, presenting at conferences and collaborating on an award winning research paper on giftedness and suicide. To empower other survivors into action, she also initiated the Survivor Advocate Listserve to enable professionals and survivors to connect and learn from each other. Thanks to improved public knowledge about mental health and mental illness, and initiatives such as MIAW, Bonny finds that people newly bereaved by suicide are increasingly met with non-judgmental compassion and understanding, and are also stepping forward to work with suicide prevention professionals. Together we ARE making a difference.
Recovery is Possible.Jenny Stewart
Meet Jenny Stewart. Jenny is a student at Carleton University who is finishing her honours degree in psychology. She lives with her parents, husband, and three-year-old daughter on a small horse farm in Ontario. Jenny’s passion is horseback riding and she says connecting with animals keeps her grounded through struggles with mental illness. This connection helps keep Jenny centered so that she is better prepared to face her everyday battle with Obsessive-Compulsive and Bipolar disorder. With the support of her family, friends, professors and physicians, Jenny strives to gain further understanding of her disorders and their impact on her life. She wants to use her own experiences to help others living in the shadows of mental illness, and show people that you can maintain a positive outlook on life. She believes that acceptance and support from family, friends, teachers, and mental health professionals are essential for recovery. Each day Jenny demonstrates that people with mental illnesses can lead fulfilling and productive lives.
Recovery is Possible.Edward K. Weatherly
Meet Edward K. Weatherly. Edward is a talented artist, author, and classical pianist, who has also faced the struggles of paranoid schizophrenia, addiction, homelessness, homosexuality, and HIV. Edward is now living in Calgary and has recently written a book, Making Sense of Crazy, describing his experiences from psychosis to recovery. In addition, Edward’s life and artwork inspired his sister, Nicole, to begin production of a 3D-animated documentary, X-THOTS, about a lost little alien who makes a crash landing in his reality, only to discover he’s not so lost after all. The film will enlighten and entertain audiences, promoting awareness and understanding of the diverse social issues that have impacted Edward’s life, set within electronica soundscapes and even some classical piano movements. With the love and support of his family, along with his healthcare team and medication, Edward is building a bright and healthy future, offering inspiration and hope for us all.
Recovery is Possible.Mike Hoefer
Meet Mike Hoefer. Mike’s work on behalf of Canadians suffering from mental illnesses is guided by passion and inspired by his own battle with mental illness. After being diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1995, Mike struggled to accept his illness, turning to drugs and alcohol and suffering a number of difficult relapses. Learning to accept his illness enabled Mike to begin to overcome it. In recent years, Mike has courageously turned his life around. An important part of Mike’s recovery has come through educating Canadians about mental illness and his own difficult experiences. His genuine personality, eloquence and positive attitude has empowered many Canadians and has earned Mike interviews and features on CBC Radio-Canada and in the Brandon Sun newspaper. Mike’s tireless volunteer work on behalf of mental illness sufferers is a benefit to the people of Brandon, Manitoba and an inspiration to all Canadians.
Recovery is Possible.Susan Mifsud
Meet Susan Mifsud. Susan is married, has two wonderful sons and a twenty year career in human resources management. She loves to read, dabble in short story writing, and power walk with friends for mental and physical well-being. For a number of years, she has had periodic struggles with depression. Susan describes herself as an outgoing, enthusiastic and happy person, with a depressive disorder. Her illness does not define her, but it is part of who she is. By normalizing the “face” of someone with depression, others can begin to see it as an illness rather than a character flaw. She hopes that by being a Face in the Mental Illness Awareness Week campaign, she can illustrate that people with mental illnesses can be productive and successful members of the workforce and community. Participating in the campaign can open up positive, non-judgmental dialogue about mental illness and provide support for those dealing with similar challenges so that they may enjoy successful and meaningful lives.
Recovery is Possible.Michelle Miller
Meet Michelle Miller. Michelle is a bright twenty-eight year old who works as a part-time retail sales associate, and a volunteer for the Humane Society. Four years ago, Michelle was diagnosed with schizophrenia and PTSD and has also battled with drug addiction. She suffered in silence for many years prior to her initial diagnosis, and has struggled with many hospitalizations, various therapies, and medications. Over the past 2 years, Michelle has begun to recover and has been re-diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and borderline personality disorder, in addition to PTSD. With the loving support of her family, true friends, peers in recovery, mental health workers, and community organizations, she has learned to believe in herself and embrace activities that guide her journey to recovery and motivate her to change her life. Through personal courage and hard work, Michelle has obtained employment for the first time in two years. With help from her support network, she is now drug-free, and better able to manage her illnesses. Michelle is committed to her treatment and recovery, and has even found the courage to speak at a drug addiction conference in Toronto as well as speaking to at-risk youth in a local high school. Michelle now knows, and wants others living in the shadows to know, that they are not alone. She believes that love, understanding and speaking out helps everyone cope and contribute to society so that people with mental illnesses can live fulfilling lives. She is an inspiration to others living with addiction and mental illnesses, especially young adults who deal with the overwhelming challenges of everyday life. Her family and friends are so proud of her for coming so far, and most importantly, Michelle is proud of herself.
Recovery is Possible.Nina Ryan
Meet Nina Ryan. Nina is a bubbly twenty-something living in Canada’s capital. She recently graduated from Carleton University with a degree in psychology and is happily married to her high school sweetheart. Nina’s passion for psychology stems from her love of animals and her amazing ability to connect with pets. Nina has lived with Social Anxiety Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, and the emotional ups and downs of Borderline Personality Disorder for as long as she can remember. It was difficult for her to understand why she struggled in so many different areas of her life until she at last discovered that there was a name for her symptoms. Her diagnosis has helped Nina to learn and recognize the limitations of her illnesses, and to concentrate on her strengths. Through it all, she has discovered how truly lucky she is to have such a wonderful support system of family and friends surrounding her, who encourage her in all the right ways. Nina aspires to reach out to others who may be struggling with a mental illness, to increase awareness through her online journal, to inspire hope and show that with support it is possible to lead a fulfilling life. She wants you to know that you are not alone.
Recovery is Possible.Michael Walsh
Meet Michael Walsh. Michael lives in Victoria with his supportive partner Libby, where his work focuses on mental health and addictions. His past struggles with addiction led him into recovery from dependency, sexual abuse and to face the many people he hurt along the way. Although much of his recovery was filled with guilt and shame about his past, Michael has now been clean and sober for over five years. He recently became involved with LifeRing Secular Recovery, a non-profit organization which changed his entire outlook on life. He is now the face of LifeRing in Victoria and is an advocate for this popular and successful new recovery option. Michael tries to lead by example and enjoys working with people no matter where they are in their lives. He also volunteers as the BC Coordinator of LifeRing, Victoria Convenor, and on its Board of Directors. Most recently Michael was asked to join the board of the RAK Foundation, where he once benefited in recovery. Michael believes that acceptance has ultimately been the key to his recovery. He is adamant that choice is extremely important in recovery and that no one should be forced to do something they are not comfortable with. Michael is sharing his story to offer hope to others struggling with addiction. He is re-connecting with family and friends and is grateful to be in recovery so he can get to know the Michael he has never known.
Recovery is Possible.
- Jack Anawak
Meet Jack Anawak. He is a former Member of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, a former Member of Parliament and was Canada’s Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs. He is a prominent Inuit leader who has spent his life speaking out on behalf of others and working passionately to promote their rights. He has also lived with profound sadness. He was sexually abused at school when he was a child and he lost two brothers to suicide when he was in his twenties. With the support of his family and community, he has found the strength to use these experiences to shed light on the issues that many Inuit face. He is sharing his story to help others in his community do the same.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Tynan Thacker
Meet Tynan Thacker. She is a proud Métis woman, full time mother of two busy boys and a certified fitness instructor at the Cumberland YMCA in Amherst, NS. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and passion about how individuals can change their lives by being physically active and by believing in themselves. Tynan has struggled with depression for most of her life but until recently was unaware that her symptoms had a name. Her diagnosis has brought an understanding which has led to an entire life change. Tynan has worked hard to get to this point and now understands how to cope with her illness. She wants to share her story so others living with depression know they are not alone.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Erynn
This is Erynn. She is a creative and imaginative grade six student from Ontario who loves snowboarding, playing Pokémon, reading fantasy novels, and watching movies that feature strong women who solve problems. Erynn also lives with bipolar disorder. She was diagnosed when she was seven. She has faced more challenges than a child her age should have and she sometimes has difficulty doing things that other kids her age take for granted. She finds that talking about her feelings with her Mom and Dad and with her educational assistant at school really helps. She is sharing her story because she wants to teach others about mental illness and show them how normal a kid with a mental illness can be.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Susan Marshall
This is Susan Marshall. She is a proud mother and grandmother from Fort Frances, Ontario, who enjoys gardening, swimming and spending time with family. She has been an influential and vocal community advocate for people with mental illnesses. Susan also lives with bipolar disorder. She was officially diagnosed during her twenties, but lived with the illness long before that. With the support of her family, peer support group, colleagues and counsellor, Susan has dedicated herself to fighting the stigma that is associated with mental illness. She is sharing her story because she wants to let others know that recovery is possible and that they don’t need to suffer in silence like she did.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Heidi Deagle
Meet Heidi Deagle. She is a thirty-year old registered nurse from British Columbia. She is also a vocal member of and advocate in the British Columbia gay and lesbian community. Heidi likes to spend her time with her supportive family, friends and partner. She also enjoys playing in the garden and with her pets. Heidi lives with depression and anxiety. Despite a strong family history of depression, Heidi tried to deny that she suffered from a mental illness. Her role as a health care professional made it more difficult to admit and face that she was sick. After talking to a counselor, Heidi was confident enough to seek medical treatment, which has helped her significantly. She is telling her story because she wants people to realize that mental illnesses are as serious and painful as physical illnesses, and should be treated the same.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Mike Santoro
This is Mike Santoro. He is the loving father of a five year old daughter, a dedicated husband, and an administrative assistant at a non-profit organization in Montreal. He loves spending time with his family, barbequing, bowling, and catching up with his many friends over coffee. Mike also lives with a severe and persistent mental illness called schizo-affective disorder. With the support of family, friends and community organizations, and by knowing what triggers his illness and taking appropriate steps when those triggers occur, Mike has learned to live a full, balanced, and rewarding life. Mike is sharing his story to fulfill his dream of helping others face mental illness by letting them know that mental illness can be treated and recovery is possible.
To learn more about Mike Santoro, please visit www.MikesStory.com, a collection of blogs, podcasts and videocasts about his journey with mental illness.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Craig Hurst
This is Craig Hurst. He is a father of two, a devoted husband and a successful entrepreneur. He loves to golf, garden and ski, as well as volunteer and spend time with his family. Diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder at the age of 25, Craig struggled for many years to regain a sense of normalcy and the life he once had. After being hospitalized and years of medication, with the help of his doctors and family Craig has learned to thrive with his illness. Those close to him characterize him as a consumer-succeeder, rather than a consumer-survivor. He now dedicates much of his time volunteering with youth, consumers and persons with disabilities with the goals of de-stigmatizing mental illness and encouraging sufferers to surmount the obstacles they face. He is telling his story because he feels that sufferers of mental illness need to know that they can overcome these debilitating diseases and succeed in life.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.
- Dan Carter
This is Dan Carter. He is an executive producer, television talk show host, businessman and professional speaker from Ontario who spends his leisure time running marathons. Dan is very active in his community, appearing at more than 100 charitable events and local functions each year. Dan also lives with depression and an addiction to drugs and alcohol. But many years ago he sought help and this year he is celebrating sixteen years of sobriety. Through diet, medication, counseling and by dealing with life on life’s terms, he has rebuilt his world and now lives a full, rewarding and happy life.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Dr. Michael Paré
Meet Dr. Michael Paré. He is a family physician from Ontario who has made a career of helping others in his role as a physician psychotherapist. Michael is admired and respected by his colleagues and is very active in his profession. When he is not seeing patients, he can be found in a classroom teaching, in his office writing, behind a podium talking with the public or helping out at his church. Michael has also suffered from severe depression and was seriously suicidal. But with the help of his psychiatrists and a GP-Psychotherapist, the right treatment, and with the support of his family and friends, he has built a successful career and lives a full, rewarding and balanced life.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Kathy T
She loves gardening, cooking and crafts. She is a busy freelance writer published in more than seventy magazines and has also recently published her auto-biography. Kathy balances her career with community work and family life. She also lives with schizo-affective disorder and depression. With support from her husband, friends, and from her doctor, and with the right medication, she lives a full, productive life. She is sharing her story because she wants to raise awareness about and lower the stigma attached to mental illness.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.David Y
He loves writing poetry and prose, and listening to music. David is a role-model for his friends and peers, and is always there to offer a kind-word or lend a helping hand. David also lives with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. By taking the right medication, by being actively involved in his own treatment plan, and by practicing Buddhist meditation and principles, David lives a full, happy life. He has chosen to share his story because he wants to help break down the stigma associated with mental illness.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Valérie Bilodeau
This is Valérie Bilodeau. She is a dedicated student from Québec who enjoys singing, reading, watching movies and socializing with her many friends. Valérie balances her academic career with a summer job as a camp counselor. She was also diagnosed with bi-polar disorder when she was fourteen. With the support of her family, friends and physician, Valérie lives a full and happy life. She has chosen to share her story so that those who are in the same situation she was in a few years ago know that there is hope, and that help is available.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Rebecca D
She loves painting, spending time with her friends, and going to the movies. She balances her career as the publisher of a popular magazine with her other full time job: being a mother. She also lives with depression. With the support of the people who surround her, with the proper medication, and by giving of herself to help others, she leads a happy, fulfilling life. She is sharing her story because she wants the stigma attached to mental illness changed, and she wants to be part of that change.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Jennifer F
She is an energetic twenty-something who loves attending social events and enjoys spending time outdoors biking and hiking. Jennifer balances a full-time job as a communications professional with a number of volunteer commitments. She also lives with an anxiety disorder and has had recurring depression throughout her teen years and into adulthood. With support from her family, friends and the health care community, she leads a full and happy life. She is sharing her story to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Alicia S
She loves spending time with her friends and family. Alicia is a successful public relations professional who balances a busy career with an active social life. She also lives with bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder. With the support of her family and friends, trusted medical professionals, and with understanding from her colleagues, she leads a productive and happy life. She is sharing her story because she wants other people who live with mental illness to know that with the right help, it is possible to feel better.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Cheryl S
She enjoys movies, needlework and embroidery. She is an active volunteer in her community and loves to spend time with her friends. She also lives with depression with psychotic features. With the right medication, the support of her family, and by keeping busy helping others, she has rebuilt her life and has arrived at a place where she just likes living. She is sharing her story to educate people, and to encourage them to let go of the fear and the misconceptions they have of those who are mentally ill.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Rosemary G
She is a grandmother to four wonderful grandsons. Rosemary loves spending time with her family, learning new things on her computer, and going to the theatre. She balances a number of volunteer commitments with an active social life. She also lives with bipolar disorder. Thanks to the treatment of an excellent psychiatrist, the right medication, the support of her family and friends, and the sense of community she finds at her church, she leads a full, enjoyable life. She is sharing her story to encourage others to talk about mental illness.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Shira H
She is the mother of a wonderful daughter. Shira has an endearing sense of humour and a knack for making people in her company feel comfortable. She is an active member of her community and a busy homemaker. She also lives with acute paranoid schizophrenia. With the support of her doctor, the right medication, and by developing and executing her own wellness plan, she is able to live a full life and provide a stable, happy home for her family. She is sharing her story because she wants mental illness to come out of the shadows where it can be seen for what it is: a treatable condition.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Karen L
She is an active, energetic, passionate woman who loves music, ballroom dancing and golf. She has a successful career as the executive director of a non-profit agency. She also lives with clinical depression. With the right medication, and with the love and support of her life partner, family and friends, she lives a rewarding, happy life. Her message: never, ever, ever, ever give up. Even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, there is always hope. If you are here, you can get better.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.John M
He loves playing golf, watching baseball, and watching movies that make you think. He is a successful professional speaker who balances a challenging professional schedule with spending time with his family. He also lives with severe depression. With a supportive family, a good doctor, and the right medication, John is able to live a full life and make a real contribution to his community. He is sharing his story because he wants to get people talking about depression.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.
- Narry Moussavi
Narry Moussavi experienced her first panic attack at 19, which eventually led to a diagnosis of anxiety and depression. As Narry struggled to cope with her illness, she lost her job as an Information Technology professional. Her struggle made her realise she needed help. She sought the support of her children and community resources. Now a support worker for others with a mental illness, Narry has her life back on track and is taking on a new challenge — returning to school in September.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Jesse Bigelow
This is Jesse Bigelow. He’s an active 20–something with diverse interests. He does volunteer work, hangs out with friends and is working towards a black belt in Karate. He goes to church on Sunday mornings and sings in a cover band Sunday nights. And he lives with Schizophrenia. With a great support network and his medication, Jesse has every intention of continuing to live a full life.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Debbie Sesula
Meet Debbie Sesula. Debbie volunteers and works in her community, enjoys spending time with family and friends and travels every chance she gets — all the while managing her bi–polar disorder. Hard to believe that early in her diagnosis, she was told that she would never live a successful life or even hold down a job. She now educates others, whether they live with a mental illness or not, to cope.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Allyson Ribar
Meet Allyson Ribar. Allyson still wonders sometimes how she managed to graduate from university with a degree in Psychology. She spent a long time not knowing what was wrong with her and why she felt the way she felt. Doctors at first thought that perhaps she suffered from depression and prescribed medication but the medicine didn’t work. Doctors soon realized that she has Schizo-Affective Disorder. Once that mystery was solved, Allyson was put on proper medication and now has her life back on track. She has a good job, reads a lot of books and goes to movies with friends.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Ed Rogers
Meet Ed Rogers. Ed was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder more than 20 years ago. He has a positive attitude and lives life to its fullest by volunteering in his community and helping others to cope. He is a husband, a father, a volunteer and an avid sports fan. Ed faces his mental illness everyday and advocates for those who can’t advocate for themselves.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Pierre Levesque
Pierre Levesque is a well–respected pharmacist with a specialty in psychiatric pharmacy. He has won several awards for his work. He also lives with depression. In spite of his profession, it took Pierre some time to learn to manage his illness. What works for Pierre? Taking his medication and relying on the love of his wife and daughter.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Nicole Aubin
Meet Nicole Aubin. She was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder about 10 years ago. After a rollercoaster ride of emotions, she sought help and is now on proper medication and living a healthy life. She is an avid community volunteer who loves music and reading. If you’re trying to reach her and she’s not home try the local restaurant where she line dances each week!
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Roy Muise
Meet Nicole Aubin. She was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder about 10 years ago. After a rollercoaster ride of emotions, she sought help and is now on proper medication and living a healthy life. She is an avid community volunteer who loves music and reading. If you’re trying to reach her and she’s not home try the local restaurant where she line dances each week!
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Ian Pollett
Meet Ian Pollett. He lives in Atlantic Canada and is getting married next year to the love of his life. Ian completed university and college and now teaches electrotechnology. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia seven years ago after some very frightening experiences. He is now an active volunteer in his community and works to help others overcome their illnesses.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Barry Styre
Meet Barry Styre. Barry lives and works in the Canadian Prairies and his main hobby is his art. It took Barry a long time to arrive at this place in his life. It was about 30 years ago that Barry was diagnosed with Schizo-Affective Disorder. He had a long battle with drugs and alcohol, but has since turned his life around and now works in his community and spends a lot of his spare time reading, writing, recording music and painting.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Shelley Smith
Meet Shelley. Shelley is a young mother who enjoys taking care of her 2 year old daughter. She takes breaks with friends, goes on dates with her husband, and is active in her community and church. What you may not have guessed is that Shelley lives with Depression. A combination of self-help, doctors and medication has allowed Shelley to live each day to the fullest.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.
- Nigel Bart
You may have seen Nigel Bart’s pieces on display at the National Gallery of Canada. What you may not know is that this professional artist lives with schizophrenia. Treatment and understanding gave Nigel hope. Art gave him a voice. What he gives us – is inspiring.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Loise Fores
Meet Loise Forest. She volunteers in her community, writes poetry in her spare time, and loves to laugh. Some days, Loise has the energy of a teenager. Every day, she lives with a depressive disorder. Through treatment and support from networks in her community, Loise has found strength and clarity. Independent, thoughtful, and full of life, it’s not Loise’s illness that defines her – it’s her spirit.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Justin Perkons
Justin Perkons is an average 20-year-old. He balances college and a part-time job, and can never make enough time for snowboarding. Justin also deals with another challenge: at age 15, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Justin sought treatment and now, managing his disease with medication and support, he leads a normal life. Justin is an honour student and when not on the slopes, volunteers in local high schools. On second thought, maybe ‘average’ doesn’t apply.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Victoria Maxwell
When Victoria Maxwell was diagnosed with bi–polar disorder, her biggest obstacles were her own attitudes and fears. Victoria sought help and eventually broke down her biases. Now, with a home, a car, meaningful relationships and a growing consulting and production company – she is giving others reason to do the same.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Barb Bostock
Not every 62-year-old grandmother goes white-water rafting, takes an annual ‘Polar Bear Dip’, or chooses the stairs at the CN Tower. Barb Bostock has simply decided she’s too active to let clinical depression slow her down. Barb suffered for years until one day it occurred to her that without treatment, she might not be able to baby-sit her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Thanks largely to the skills and opportunities she gained from a local training and rehabilitation centre, Barb is now capable of caring for her grandkids. She is not sure, however, how their parents will feel about her next big adventure – bungee jumping. After all, it isn’t for everyone!
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Chris Whittaker
Whether through his church activities, finishing his English degree or taking Celtic dance lessons, Chris Whittaker seeks every opportunity to learn something new. What he didn’t expect to have to learn at the age of 23 is how to live with schizophrenia. Now at 38, with proper treatment and the support of his family, Chris is sharing his love of learning and endless energy with his community. Being a dedicated volunteer, Chris strives to teach people that mental illness is not all he’s about—it is just a small part of what makes him, him.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Lynn Alcock
Lynn Alcock went back to school at the age of 48. You might think this courageous. What you may find more courageous is how before returning to the classroom, she first overcame her battle with depression. By seeking counselling and the support of her friends and family, Lynn saw the chance and need to change her life’s path – to leave an unhealthy work environment and answer the call she felt to help others. Now a counsellor herself, Lynn says “I have control over my life, and that control comes from taking care of myself.”
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Barry Shainbaum
This is Barry Shainbaum. Barry is a successful Toronto photographer, author and motivational speaker. Along his road to success, he encountered his fair share of obstacles. At the age of 21, Barry was diagnosed with Bipolar Mood Disorder. He eventually recovered from the disabling impact of this disorder and has been able to rebuild his life. His recovery path has included many years of intensive therapy, medication and learning about the dynamics of his illness from psychiatry and psychology and through his spirituality. Whether through his photography, his book “Hope & Heroes,” or his speaking engagements, Barry now inspires others. He is a real–life example that you can find strength and hope in facing and overcoming adversity.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.Ruth–Ann Meadows
As a teenager, Ruth–Ann Meadows thought it was normal to live in shades of grey. When finally diagnosed with depression and general anxiety disorder, Ruth–Ann’s first reaction was relief: there was a reason for her struggles and hope for her future. Having found the right balance of therapy and treatment, Ruth–Ann is happier than ever. She loves her work as an accountant, enjoys long walks and dinner with friends, and dotes shamelessly on her nieces and nephews. Now, Ruth–Ann’s life is rich with color.
FACE IT. Mental illness concerns us all.