Mental health supports are different for everyone, but are vital to every wellness journey.
These supports, from professional help such as therapy and counselling to social networks like friends and family, are pivotal for someone facing mental health issues.
“It’s something to be grateful for,” said Quinn Fisher, a 31-year-old writer from Whitecourt who credits his family with making all the difference in his mental health journey. “[People] who don’t have those supports have to fend for themselves, and they usually get lost and fall through the cracks.”
For Fisher, his journey with mental health began at birth when he was put up for adoption by his mother, who recognized that, due to her own mental health issues, she wouldn’t be able to properly care for him.
I want people to know that they’re not the only ones suffering and that there is help out there.”
-Quinn Fisher, Whitecourt writer
Aware of his birth mother’s mental health history and what it might mean for his future mental health, Fisher said his parents provided him with all the help he might need through the love and support they gave him and access to professional help.
“It makes a world of difference if parents are involved in their child’s mental health development,” said Fisher, who has been diagnosed with depression, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, and Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. “I was put into therapy at a young age, so my parents were very involved in that.”
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, an estimated 1.5 million Canadian children and youth (aged 0-24) are affected by mental illness, but do not have access to appropriate support, treatment, or care.
This lack of access impacts the rest of the child’s life and their ability to build the social, emotional, and developmental skills needed to work with others, to resolve conflict, and to cope with challenges.
“Despite the many challenges that I’ve faced, I’m still able to lead a productive life,” said Fisher, crediting his success to the help he received when he was young and the hard work he’s put in since.
From developmental therapies and learning social and emotional cues early on in life, to treating depression and suicidal thoughts as he got older, Fisher says he has spent a lifetime figuring out what works best for him.
“Acknowledging your passions and pursuing them plays a key role in positive mental health,” he shared, explaining how just last year he found a new way to work through his thoughts. “Music has been a huge part of my life, so doing that once a week helps me to express my emotions.”
“It’s the hands-on component that other therapies don’t have,” he said, explaining that music therapy helps him with all aspects of his mental illness, not just emotions. “Talk therapy is mentally exhausting, but I’m able to express myself through music, and it helps me focus my attention and regulate my mood.”
Understanding all too well just how challenging mental health journeys can be, Fisher said it’s important that we all talk about mental health hurdles we face in hopes that it will change the way we perceive asking for help.
“It’s empowering to see other people’s stories of resilience and the struggles that they face,” he said.
“I think the more we open up about what we’re struggling with, the more people would seek the help that they need without fearing what others might perceive that as or [that they will] dismiss it as attention seeking,” Fisher said, expressing how even those with strong supports can feel the effects of mental health stigma.
“I definitely ran into that myself, so I know that fear some people have with opening up about their mental health and the issues that they struggle with.”
For Fisher, the importance of open and honest dialogue was made especially clear last year when the tragic impact of its stigma hit him close to home.
“My best friend’s mom ended her life…. It was an eye-opener for me because no one saw it coming,” he said, sharing how it spurred him on to do more.
“It made me realize that people are suffering silently, and I felt that if others were to share their stories that it might give someone hope and the will to live just another day.”
Fisher started his advocacy work by writing a column for the local newspaper, sharing his and other’s experiences with mental illness.
I like to say that mental illness becomes mental wellness when we come together.”
After that, he still wanted to contribute more and his therapist suggested he get involved with the Rural Mental Health Project, which provided him with the necessary training he’ll need to better help his community bridge some of the gaps in mental health services.
“We bring inside experience to the program,” said Fisher about why he thinks it’s important for others with mental health issues to get involved with programs like the Rural Mental Health Project. “We’ve been through the mental health system, and we’re able to advocate for those who don’t have a voice.”
And for Fisher, giving mental illness a voice is one of the best ways to help build a path to support for others.
“I want people to know that they’re not the only ones suffering and that there is help out there,” he added, expressing his eagerness to use his experience to help others in his community.
“I like to say that mental illness becomes mental wellness when we come together.”
— Lesley Allan
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