Written by QCMHA Co-Chair Ali Jones
About two years ago, someone in my life confided in me about their struggle with suicide. This experience was terrifying to me because I had no idea how to respond to this disclosure. I had not been trained, nor did I know what to say, leaving me with feelings of helplessness. I felt so fortunate that this person had the courage to trust me, but I felt sick that I didn’t know how to provide support.
Since this experience, I have learned so much about mental health, sparking an ongoing passion in me. With the help of my mom, who has pursued a career in mental health coaching and also works as a Kid’s Help Phone crisis responder, I have been able to educate myself about using resources and coping techniques for myself, and about how to support others experiencing mental health challenges. Looking back on my inability to provide support for my friend, it made me realize the lack of general awareness and resources available to everyone. This is what made me so passionate about joining QCMHA, as I genuinely wanted to change the conversation on mental wellness and to destigmatize mental illness. At its core, QCMHA is about providing valuable resources, education, and awareness by leading events and initiatives that have a strong value-add.
Having my mom there to answer my questions and guide my knowledge about mental illness throughout my university experience has transformed my perspective on mental health; however, this is a unique situation that I am fortunate to be in. I want QCMHA to be the equivalent of what my mom is to me. I want students to feel they have somewhere to look to, with QCMHA acting as support and a source of education. No one should have to go through any confusion or struggle alone. Having the opportunity to put this goal into action to positively impact the commerce program is what drives my passion behind being a mental health advocate.
What is my vision for the commerce community? I want to create a safe space. I want the community to feel like there is a group of people who can be relied on--those you can go to when needed, without experiencing judgement. How can we create a safe space? Consider how you can work towards being a more compassionate and understanding person; you don’t have to be a mental health advocate to make a difference. Consider how you can act more openly, empathetically, and non-judgmentally, to develop a greater sense of safety and trust with someone. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned about mental health, and something I work on everyday, is the ability to be vulnerable, accepting, and understanding.
Finally, with this perspective, we can only go up from here to continue the conversation as a community--to continue to educate and learn, while growing and changing together :)