Tonight is my last night of speaking with Young Ones at Ryerson University in a course about Canadian Homelessness. My colleague and I share our mental health stories to demonstrate our struggles and how experiencing homelessness was not far off for us and would have made things way more difficult. We speak alongside an amazing group called The Dream Team who are consumer/survivors who advocate for supportive housing all over Ontario.
With this being my fourth night of speaking, of recounting how I came to be who I am today in front of 20+ students, I’m sure you can imagine that I am emotionally drained. Sometimes I have been so emotionally drained I think about not speaking ever again. When I get like that I am asked by friends and family why I keep doing if it sometimes hurts me. The accumulation of the last three nights of speaking I feel illustrates perfectly why I keep speaking.
The first night my colleague and I had a young woman approach us after and begin to cry as she told us that she experiences severe anxiety and needed extra support but didn’t know where to look. We told her to come to our peer support group anytime. She said she will and we exchanged hugs.
The second night we chatted with a young man who asked us great questions during the Q & A and expressed repeatedly who much he appreciated us sharing our stories and again we exchanged hugs.
The third night we met two young women who have lived experience and were interested in volunteering and attending Group. I was fortunate enough to travel home on the subway with them and learn more about their experiences.
Many more approached us wanting to volunteer for our upcoming Gala and thank us for sharing our stories (one young woman said she learned more about mental health from us than she has from any textbook).
This is why I keep speaking. I have begun to moderate how much I speak to avoid burn out but to many are silenced and if I’m willing to put myself out there to move people into action then that is what I will do. It means so much to me to have others share their stories with me and/or support their interest in improving our mental health system and societal view. This is what I wanted to do when I first decided to become a social worker in gr. 10. I never dreamed I would be doing it and I don’t think I could properly explain how happy I am to have achieved this and have done so in a way I never imagined.