- Julie Keddy
Growing up in rural Nova Scotia, Julie was a shy introverted individual who secretly struggled with anxiety, depression, and obsessive thoughts beginning in her teens. While maintaining high academic standing throughout her schooling, nobody would have recognized the challenges she was battling internally. During her first year of university, Julie began a downward spiral causing her to finally reach out for help. Diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder in her 20s, Julie began a treatment of counselling and medication and began her road to recovery. Julie holds Bachelor’s Degrees in both Science and Education as well as a Master of Education in Curriculum Studies. As a teacher, Julie has gained further appreciation of the need for support for youth living with mental illness. In 2014, she returned to Acadia University to obtain a Master of Education in Counselling, enabling her to work as a school counsellor.B Adair
B grew up on a small farm in East Central Alberta and spent the last 8 years working as a Paramedic, but is currently finishing up nursing school. B is happily married to his partner Alix, a pre-school teacher, and together they have a house full of foster fails. B and Alix are foster parents for a local animal rescue and have had all kinds of creatures (furry and otherwise) stay with them at one point or another.
B is a writer, avid reader, sports enthusiast, volunteer hockey coach, and loves everything to do with being outside, particularly camping, kayaking, hiking and travelling.
B is currently working to launch a website promoting advocacy and education for rural communities regarding LGBTQ issues and awareness. As an openly gay and transgender man, B proudly mentors queer youth from surrounding communities. Having grown up in very conservative, rural Alberta, B has personally experienced the difficulties of ‘coming out’ in areas lacking LGBTQ knowledge & resources and wants to break down those barriers, destroy the stereotypes, and ensure everyone who needs support has access to the resources they deserve.
Having also dealt with PTSD related to working as a first responder, B is intimately familiar with the mental health system and wants to promote improved mental health care resources in rural Alberta.Shania Pruden
Shania is a twenty-one year old Indigenous Rights Activist, Blogger, Youth Motivational Speaker and the Youth Director for the Bear Clan Patrol. In May 2014, Shania lost her older sister Emerald to suicide, this hit Shania very hard. Shania fell into what felt like a dark tunnel, unable to see the light at the end. She was diagnosed with OCD and Depression. Inspired to keep her sister’s legacy alive, Shania launched a blog to raise awareness on Indigenous Rights and Mental Health. Soon after she started turning her written work into action, by becoming a Youth Motivational Speaker – speaking to thousands across Canada and even speaking at WE Day Manitoba about the importance of imagining the possibilities. Shania has found power in using her voice to inspire, motivate and empower people of all ages to find their spark, light it up and keep it going.Frédéric Tremblay
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has been a part of Frédéric’s life since adolescence. Though his life was not immediately impacted by the disorder, his mental health spiralled during his late-twenties and for the subsequent 15 years. This led him to put his career on hold and seek treatment in a psychiatric hospital for months at a time.
Fortunately, Frédéric had a great support network of family and medical professionals. Due, in part, to effective medication and his faith, he was able to gradually regain control of both his personal and professional life. Today, Frédéric serves as the President volunteer at the Fondation Québécoise pour le trouble obsessionnel-compulsif (FQTOC). In his role, Frédéric seeks to help people living with OCD cope with the disorder and lead a regular life. During his free time, Frédéric is also a motivational speaker; sharing his experiences living with the disorder. He hopes his efforts within his community will set an example and give hope to those living with OCD.Sylvie Mercier
Sylvie was diagnosed with bipolar disorder five years ago, as a result of significant changes in her work environment that deeply affected her. Following her first diagnosis with adjustment disorder and falling into a deep depression shortly thereafter, Sylvie suffered a manic episode. This lead to a five-week-long forced hospitalization.
Sylvie has always made promoting mental health in the workplace her priority, whether by educating her colleagues on the topic or by encouraging them to seek professional help when necessary. Her social media presence serves to inform employers and raise awareness on the different challenges associated with mental illness and mental health. While her journey towards recovery has seen ups and downs, Sylvie is a firm believer of “leaving time to time”. She owes her recovery to the continued support of her family, friends and the benefits of years of regular physical activities.
- 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.
Over the last year, I have been regularly updating my online advocacy platform, This Is the Day, giving presentations to promote mental health awareness, volunteering for a literary journal, and working as a tutor for numerous students. This summer I am beginning roles as a journalism intern for 24Strong, a Canadian organization that aims to empower young women, and as a co-lead of my university’s jack.org chapter. I’m thrilled to have been selected as a 2018 recipient of the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award.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.
Lots of things have been going on the last few months. First, I was invited as a guest on a TV show call Banc Public to tell my story. Here is the link of that episode which aired in April on public TV (Télé-Québec) http://bancpublic.telequebec.tv/emissions/emission-52. The 30 minute episode is an interview of me talking about my experience as a father living with mental illness as well as footage of me and my son and daughter. It drew around 200 000 viewers and I got lots of positive feedback from it. I did two conference and have three more booked for this fall. I am starting to really enjoy this live platform and my intention is to continue on that path. I’m still writing for my blog and on my Facebook page. I’m still quite active as a mental health advocate even though I have to juggle with a demanding job and family. Again, I will never express enough gratitude toward CAMIMH for the opportunity, it opened so many doors for me and literally changed my life.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.
This year brought forth its share of surprises in my role as an advocate and Face with the ultimate goal of destroying the devastating effects of stigma. From September to June, I hosted over 50 mental health presentations throughout Ontario. Presentations included elementary, intermediate, high schools, and organizations. In 2018, I attended and spoke at three conferences with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, in Toronto, Sault Ste. Marie, and Kingston. Student presentations were held in Toronto, Cornwall, Brockville, Madawaska Valley, and the entire Ottawa region, allowing me the opportunity of sharing my story, and changing the way we perceive mental illness, providing resources and avenues to higher quality of mental health care.
In February and April respectively, I had articles published in BP Magazine (North America wide), Catholic Teachers Magazine (Ontario wide), and in the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre Newsletter. Interviews over the year included CTV Morning Live, CTV at 5, CTV at 6, and DCN Talk Radio. I was also highlighted in a special video on poverty with the Toronto District School Board following a visit to Sloane Elementary where I shared my illustrated picture book, Sally. These can be found on my website at chrisnihmey.comI am pleased to announce that my latest book is now ready for print: “Reflections From Another Side: Mental Illness Survivors and Advocates Unite to Write”. Over a three-year period, I worked with 14 mental illness survivors, and 10 mental health advocates to produce an anthology of mental health works from short stories, to poems, and biographies, etc. Our goal is to end the stigma that is preventing sufferers from receiving compassion and acceptance, allowing them to thrive.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.
It was an honour to serve as a Face of Mental Illness and work with an amazing group of people committed to advancing mental health and the lives of people living with mental illness. Although my time as a Face has come to an end, I continue to advocate. I am scheduled to deliver a speech for Ontario Works this September. I will also appear at a conference in Hamilton next April where I will share my personal story of recovery. I continue to contribute to the e-journal of Recovery, a University of Toronto publication, and recently published blog about my experience as a member of the CAMIMH Faces campaign. I am also proud to announce that I have started a new career. I now work as a Peer Support Specialist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby. Currently I am work in Transitional Discharge assisting those who are early in their recovery journeys. I am grateful for all of the opportunities I have been afforded to advocate for people living with complex mental illness.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.
I am now on the Board of the Forum jeunesse de l’Île de Montréal and a member of the Youth Council of Pierrefonds-Roxboro (a borough of Montreal)! I am finishing my master’s in social work at McGill University and will apply to pursue a PhD in Social Work starting in fall 2019. I am still giving talks on my story every now and then, whenever I am available. I’ve also been selected as an honoree for the book 100 Accomplished Black Women by 100ABCWomen (the book will be launched in September 2018).
- 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.