What a Journey This Has Been

Content warning for mention of suicide loss and suicidal ideation

Saying “goodbye” to an organization that I’ve been involved with for over a decade is no easy feat, so bear with me as I take a walk down memory lane. The summer that I turned 17 was one filled with some of the most invaluable learnings of my life (not just up until that point, but even as I sit here writing this 13 years later). No, I wasn’t in summer school or adventuring at overnight camp; I was in the child and adolescent psychiatric unit of a hospital, two hours away from my hometown, for an inpatient eating disorder program. While I’d struggled with my birthdays for other reasons in years past, this was the first time that I was filled with dread for one. I’d lost a friend to suicide a few months prior and was still grappling with how much I felt like it was me who should have died, not him. When his birthday passed, it felt more and more wrong that I was approaching a new age while he would be forever 16. I didn’t think I had a future, or at least I certainly felt like I didn’t want one.

One day that summer, mindyourmind came to the inpatient unit to give an engaging presentation about mental health. Little did I know that this was just the beginning of my connection to this organization. Throughout that hospital stay, I discovered a deep and empathic interest in my fellow patients and their stories. I was told I had a knack for supportive listening and helping new patients feel less anxious or isolated in a strange new environment. I realized how interested I was in youth mental health and psychology altogether, so I decided that was the path I wanted to explore in post-secondary.

Two years later, I was back in London and this time by choice: I was attending Western to study psychology. That fall, I saw a tweet by mindyourmind that said they were seeking youth volunteers and I was eager to apply. After a successful interview, I soon participated in my first youth engagement project with them: a “street team” that focused on improving the usability of their website and helping with marketing plans for two of their digital resources. It was a novel situation to sit around a table where professionals were eagerly seeking to collaborate with me and other youth in a way that valued our lived experience with mental health as expertise. I quickly fell in love with the organization and the work that they did. From advisory and consultation to creative co-design, I learned a lot over the next four years of volunteering with mindyourmind and there was never a dull moment along the way.

In 2016, I was offered the incredible opportunity to be their summer student. My involvement with this organization would continue to bring opportunities that I don’t know how to even begin expressing my gratitude and appreciation for. In an effort to avoid writing a novel, I will leave it at this: projects big or small, close to home or across the globe, it still feels surreal to think about the experiences I’ve had and the connections I’ve built through this organization. I am forever thankful for each and every experience, and it’s been such an honour to help represent the organization in varying roles throughout this time.

Sixteen-year-old me would have never believed I’d be here writing this all these years later, especially not with the accomplishments in tow that this organization helped me to achieve. The future that I didn’t think I’d have, ended up being something that mindyourmind partly helped me to build. Needless to say, this organization played a big role in my life these last ten and a half years and will always have a special place in my heart.

Am I allowed to swear in a blog now? I can’t conclude this without an Office quote, and this one sure rings true:

“It’s just that sometimes, goodbyes are a b*tch.” ~Jim Halpert

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