“Pain is real, but so is hope.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association is not only a nationwide resource I personally found comfort in when I was in the depths of my mental illness, but an organization that has shaped the mental health community in Canada since 1917.  With 33,759 hours of volunteer work, 710 families and individuals that are provided housing, 100 programs that are in place to meet a communities needs, and 310 staff that work around the clock to provide us with these programs and supports for our community, (source)  the CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) has shown remarkable efforts regarding mental health care within Canada.

I had the great pleasure of speaking at one of the amazing conferences that the CMHA puts on annually. I was met with so many different organizations, mental health professionals, others that personally lived with mental health challenges and an abundance of supports at the #NowWeAreStronger Conference this past May. Connecting with the CMHA has been a tremendous goal of mine for several years, and to finally have the opportunity to not only chat with the executive director, but as well as share my journey through bullying and mental illness to a crowd filled with so many undeniably intelligent and supportive individuals was so unreal!

That’s the thing about mental illness— no matter who you are, how much you have or how successful you become, they do not discriminate. Anyone can be living with one.” -Excerpt from my speech at the #NowWeAreStronger Conference

After finishing up my speech and chatting with a few guests, I was able to make my way to one of the workshops going on that afternoon! I attended the Suicide Post-vention workshop. I walked out of that room with a new understanding on both a clinical side and personal side of preventing suicide after a suicide attempt/losing a loved one to suicide. When someone takes their life or attempts to take their life, we often focus so much on the individual themselves and forget to take a look at the people surrounding said person. It is often that the ones that were once part of that individuals safety net are vulnerable to experiencing these challenges themselves. This workshop educated not only myself, but professionals in how to best support the outer layer of people that are hit by the ripple effect of suicide. If you are ever given an opportunity to attend one of these workshops/conferences please take it! You are given so many valuable tools that aren’t often taught on an everyday basis (but definitely should be!)

By having shameless conversations about hard topics such as suicide, bullying and mental illness, we are combating the stigma that jeopardizes so many’s recovery. Many are scared of having these conversations due to the repercussions that may come about. However, I left not feeling triggered or influenced to engage in negative thoughts or actions, but rather educated and better equipped to talk to my peers who may be struggling and point them in the direction of the endless amount of resources that are provided by the CMHA of Alberta. There is so much we can do to combat this stigma and support the people around us. From taking the time to learn about mental illness’s, breaking down those stereotypes the media often encourages, and changing our attitude and behavior. I believe these are all steps to creating positive, educating and important talks surrounding one’s mental well-being.

Mackenzie, Miss Teenage Western Alberta 2017

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