- Rachel Beazley
Rachel’s journey with mental illness began when she was diagnosed with OCD, Tourette Syndrome, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder at the age of seven, followed by additional diagnoses of ADHD and Depression more recently. Despite numerous barriers along the way, Rachel has remained driven to learn about the conditions and commit to recovery. She began her advocacy work in high school by making presentations to staff and students about mental health and mental illness stigma. At 18, she has brought her passion for advocacy to the University of Winnipeg. Rachel was a delegate for Jack Summit 2017, sits on the WRHA Youth Mental Health Advisory Council, and is a Worth Living ambassador. In 2016, Rachel expanded her advocacy platform to Instagram (@ThisIsTheDay_EndStigma) and a personal website. She has published a book about her experience with mental illness and its associated stigma. Her goal is to bring meaningful education about mental health and illness into Canadian classrooms.Martin Binette
For more than 20 years, Martin has been living with a mood disorder and General Anxiety. He first went public with his medical condition in 2014, and has been discussing and writing about mental illness ever since. A contributor to the Huffington Post Quebec, Martin has started his own mental health blog “Entre les Deux Oreilles” which works to help end the prejudices and stigma surrounding mental illness. He credits writing about his illness and speaking publicly about it as helping with his own path to recovery and acceptance of his illness.Chris Nihmey
Graduating from university in 1998, Chris had the world in his hands, his future fully planned. Sickness changed everything. After a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder at 26, he was forced to end his teaching career abruptly. Two years later, he was additionally diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Chris made a decision to hide his illnesses, keeping them a secret while resorting to supply teaching. Working on his healing through numerous therapies, he made recovery a full-time job. In 2007, he began writing a story about his battle. This became a driving force in his healing, bringing him purpose and meaning. In 2013, he released his story worldwide, and now writes and speaks, to fight stigma, and to provide inspiration, hope and healing. This has led Chris to write and publish several books, while continuing to promote awareness and change. He has now spoken at well over 100 venues.Brian Rose
Brian’s road to wellness and mental health advocacy began with tragedy. At the height of his mental illness, Brian, who was coping with the symptoms of Schizophrenia by abusing drugs and alcohol, couldn’t get the help he needed. His life continued in a downward spiral eventually leading to the tragic death of his grandmother. After being found Not Criminally Responsible, Brian began rebuilding his life in honour of his grandmother. The right combination of medication and treatment served as the foundation of his recovery. He quickly became a model patient who was actively engaged in his own recovery as well as the recovery of his peers. Brian now has the tools to manage his mental health and is poised to make the most of his second chance at life. As an advocate, he shares his story of tragedy and recovery to raise awareness about serious mental illness and to honour his grandmother’s memory.Kharoll-Ann Souffrant
Montreal-born Kharoll-Ann Souffrant comes from a Haitian background. Her family did not openly discuss issues like mental illness. It wasn’t until the beginning of adulthood that she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder after living with depressive symptoms since childhood. Since her diagnosis 7 years ago, Kharoll-Ann learned to recognize how it manifests itself, rebuilt her confidence and regained control over her life. Given her involvement in her community since the age of 12, she believes that her commitment played an important part in her recovery. In 2015, she chose to start sharing her story in public. She has since spoken at events such as TEDxQuébec and WE Day. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in social work from McGill University, and will begin Master’s studies in the same field in the Fall. Her path has led to a number of awards, including the Women of Distinction award granted by the Montreal Women’s Y Foundation, the Paul Frappier Youth Leadership Award from the Montreal Community Cares Foundation, as well as the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award.
- 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.