Mental illness takes the spotlight


Sometimes, all it takes is one person to speak up, to share their story and make a difference in someone else’s life.

Students from all three Pictou County high schools listened in silence as guest speakers relayed their stories of battles with mental illnesses during the recent Headstrong summit held at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.

Sarah MacCallum was the final guest speaker of the summit. She opened by telling the audience she was mad. MacCallum, who is a graduate student at Dalhousie University and a graduate of Pictou Academy, spoke about reclaiming the mad identity for those that are considered chronically mental ill and may never be “cured.”

“I’m a chronic case myself,” she said, mentioning that she has been diagnosed with severe obsessive compulsive disorder. Along with public speaking, MacCallum is also on the PhD track studying recovery and mental illnesses.

Along with MacCallum, Keely Wadden and Dexter Nyuurnibe also spoke about their experiences with their mental illness and the things they have learned along their journey.

Wadden, a suicide survivor, deals with depression and anxiety and once dealt with addictions problems after using addictions to escape her other illnesses. For Wadden, who now owns a cross fit business in New Brunswick, it is all about giving back and helping others through her public speaking and the power of sport.

“Having youth at risk or youth in general having access and showing kids that mental illness doesn’t define who you are,” she said about her goal. She said it is important “to offer more productive outlets to help them with what they’re going through.”

Nyuurnibe, who deals with chronic depression, was sparked to get help and make a change after a suicide attempt while studying at St. Francis Xavier University. During his talk,

Nyuurnibe addressed vulnerability, especially that of men and boys.

“Men and boys are more likely to go through with a suicide attempt,” Nyuurnibe shared.

While telling their stories about how they have dealt with their mental illnesses, students from each of the schools listened carefully.

“I personally have had experience in my life (with mental illness,) … I’ve always wanted to get involved,” said Riley Fraser, a North Nova Education Centre student.
Fraser along with Samantha Cameron and Haley Berriman, all from NNEC, attended the summit.

“I wanted to show people that mental health is okay, it’s not something you should be ashamed of, just speak out.”

Students from each of the schools submitted applications to attend the summit and then students chosen to attend were selected from those that had sent in submissions.

“It’s really no different than a physical illness,” said Fraser.

Along with the other students from the schools, Fraser is hoping to end the stigma that still remains for some who deal with mental illness.

“It’s a really comforting feeling knowing you’re not alone in this world,” Berriman said.

Riley Fraser, left, Samantha Cameron and Haley Berriman talk about what they learned during the headstrong summit last week at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.

(Brimicombe photo)

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