“THE MARCH IS LONG, BUT IT CONTINUES ON”
MY PRE-MENTAL HEALTH DAYS
When I began my journey into the mental health field, I didn’t know much about it. I was studying business in university at the time and my identity was mostly tied to that and sports. My identity as a business student was just starting to form, and my athletic side was still nursing some wounds from being cut from Jr A hockey and not securing the US hockey scholarship I had been aiming for. The feeling of wanting to do something in mental health was growing, however as I felt there was a disconnect with how people perceived mental health and mental illness and the reality of it. So much fear and judgement and shame and blame were associated with mental illness in the culture and I wasn’t ok with that.
THE INITIAL SPARK
It was Spring, 2008, I had been diagnosed with schizophrenia about 10 months earlier and that’s when something sparked. I attended two events at a UBC (University of British Columbia) Lecture Series on Mental Health one week in around February, of that year. One was from a professor from Europe who shared some pretty depressing stats on psychosis and schizophrenia. There were things like the small percentage of people who would be friends with someone with the diagnosis and there were similarly upsetting stats of small percentage of people who would date or marry someone with it.
The other lecture that week was one by Margaret Trudeau – yes the late Pierre’s wife and Justin’s mother – who shared her mental health journey. It was funny and inspiring. It was actually during the professor’s talk earlier in the week that I had the idea to start a mental health student club. It felt like something achievable and yet meaningful – to try to shift the conversation and raise awareness in my small pocket of the world on campus. And it was during Margaret Trudeau’s speech that I asked her a question during the Q&A – something about how might I go about starting something like a student mental health club. I can’t remember exactly what she said, though it was something encouraging, but what also happened was that the Executive Director of the Mood Disorders Association of BC (who were hosting a table at the event) approached me afterward and said he’d like to help and support my initiative. Little did I know that one week, those two speeches would change the direction of my life and career so significantly.
THE SMW DAYS
Fast forward to Fall, 2008 and we launched ’Students For Mental Wellness’ at the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Clubs Days with a homemade banner (see image) and a sign up sheet. If you look closely at the image, you can see the website listed at www.smw.ca – with a small ‘f’ written in at the last moment as I thought I had secured smw.ca, but had no idea what I was doing and had not done so. Despite our lack of branding, during the two days hosting the table, in what I believed to be a miracle, over 60 people signed up as members of the club and we were in business.
FROM BOM SUMMITS TO JAY-Z
It’s also incredible to observe the progress over the past decade since attending those lectures at UBC. In some sense, the awareness building has felt glacial in it’s pace of progress. There is still a lot of stigma and discrimination toward those who struggle with their mental health. There is still a lot of unhealthy culture around what is ‘cool’, the pressures of being a youth, and there are new challenges with mobile phones and social media to tackle.
Yet if we look at where we are today compared to 10 years ago and some of the milestones in mental health both locally and globally, both grassroots initiative and celebrity-type, there is a lot to be excited about. From Balancing Our Minds Youth Summits we got to be a part of at Roger’s Arena to CMHA’s Ride For Mental Health campaign, to FamilySmart opening career paths for those with lived experience with the ‘Youth In Residence’ role, to Jack.org being created along with Foundry, Speakbox, Never Alone, The Stigma Free Society and the hundreds of youth who’ve graduated from our Mavrixx EDGE and LEAP training programs to the countless school mental health events and initiatives around British Columbia, across Canada and globally. That’s not to mention everyone from the British Royals to Jay-Z talking about mental health.
THE TIPPING POINT
I’ve often referred to the mental health tipping point as the holy grail goal to aim for in mental health. While it’s not the be all and end all point to arrive at, it will be a significant milestone to get to where mental health becomes a normal part of everyday conversation and on the radar for everyone in a similar way that the environment went from a fringe topic to mainstream awareness and priority. I don’t think were there yet, but I do believe we’ll get there this decade as more people recognize the importance of mental health, and as more initiatives and campaigns are launched and the awareness continues to build.
MENTAL HEALTH WEEK X 1,000,000
It is weeks like this one – Mental Health Awareness Week – that make a big different. But it’s also the millions of people around the world that are taking initiative, sharing their stories and raising awareness one conversation and one community at a time that it helping us march toward that tipping point level awareness. The march is long, but it continues. For those we’ve lost and those still fighting internal battles of the mind, it must.
FOUNDER & HEAD TRAINER // MAVRIXX
If you’re in the mood, here’s ONE OF THE FIRST MENTAL HEALTH VIDEOS WE PRODUCED FOR MENTAL HEALTH WEEK IN 2010:
Please reach out if there’s anything we can do to support and if you’re a youth or young adult looking to level up your mental health or get into mental health public speaking, we just created a variety of (temporary) free and sliding scale pricing options to sign up for our 2 signature programs – The EDGE Program and The LEAP Academy. Learn more here: mavrixx.com/covid19/