Written by Step Above Stigma's co-president, Hailey Rodgers.
I have had this blog post in mind since last October; however, I thought that posting it now during Mental Health Awareness Month and COVID-19 would be fitting. In short, mental health advocacy changed my life and I believe it can change yours. It is time we all became mental health advocates together.
Like many, I have experienced my own battles with mental health. In high school and the beginning of university I experienced various mental health problems including insomnia, severe anxiety and depression, and an extremely bad body image. However, I was viewed in a different way. I was known as the girl who loved academia and always wore a smile on her face. No one knew what was going on inside.
There was also a whole other part of me that assumed that everyone else had it easier...that everything in their lives was perfect. I too did not see what was going on behind their smiles, as they most likely had their own inner battles they were facing.
However, it was in my second year of university when I became aware that there was a mental health community. I came across a Queen’s University-affiliated non-profit organization called Step Above Stigma. This organization was a part of a growing community of mental health advocates who are eager to break down the stigma associated with mental health. This community aspires to educate, increase awareness, and fight for and ensure accessibility of mental health resources. Fundamentally, they want to normalize asking for help and ensure that help is available, as every human being deserves to have access to such resources.
Having gone through my own battles for six years, I was eager to become a part of this community that was so welcoming and open about sharing their stories with mental health. It was a relief for me that others were going to welcome me fully as I am...all my battles, all my struggles, and everything that makes me, me.
Advocacy changed my life completely. All of my successes over the past two years can be attributed to mental health advocacy. Advocacy allowed me to accept myself as I am and to not be ashamed of my past or any battles that I am currently facing. It allowed me to share my own story with the world without shame or doubt.
Moreover, I never thought that I would one day find meaning in these battles. I never thought that my battles could help someone else.
The moment I opened up about my story, I began to receive messages from those who were struggling with their own mental health. They confided in me about their stories and asked me to point them in a direction where they could receive help.
Sharing my story opened the door for someone else to share theirs.
You see, through your struggle, there is incredible strength. Your strength can positively impact the lives of many people. You will showcase that through adversity, something good will always come out of it and that you are never alone.
Storytelling acts as a catalyst for change. As soon as we begin to normalize storytelling and facilitate a community of encouragement and support, then we will break down the stigma. As soon as we break down the stigma and build awareness, we can normalize mental health accessibility and all have the mentality where we know that it’s okay to ask for help.
Advocacy changed my life and I guarantee it will change yours. Are you ready to become an advocate?