A letter from Bella McGill

My battle with my mental health began at the young age of 12.

Bella McGill shares her story of her struggles and triumphs
with her mental health.

I began having intense suicidal thoughts and depressive episodes. Yet, what made this all the more terrifying for a child, was the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was dealing with nor the resources available to me. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I would get an actual diagnosis and begin my long path to recovery.

It was the fall of grade 9 and while most of my peers were out meeting new friends and starting new chapters, I stayed in bed, terrified of interpersonal relationships and too tired to do anything else. This eventually led to my first suicide attempt. I was rushed to Bluewater Hospital and waited for what felt like days to see someone, anyone. Then, hours later, I was greeted by a psychiatrist. We chatted briefly, I filled out some forms, and I was then diagnosed with depression and social anxiety. Little did I know how much of an impact these disorders were having and would continue to have on my life. Afterall, I had never even heard of them before. In addition to my diagnosis, I was also given a referral to a local mental health agency where I would speak to someone in three weeks.

Although compared to the typical 6 months to a year waitlists youth normally face, this seems short, I can remember at the time thinking I wouldn’t survive those three weeks. Thankfully I did. Yet, when I walked into the doors of the facility I felt like I was in the wrong place. The walls were covered in grey and the decor was gloomy. I felt as if I had walked into a business office, not a youth mental health facility. Immediately my walls became higher and my anxiety began to peak. Despite my fear I continued my care for well over two years. Consciously knowing the therapist I was seeing was not the best fit for me, however I was too afraid to restart on yet another waitlist. At 16, I attempted to take my life again. In spite of receiving treatment I still felt voiceless in my recovery plan and my family felt lost in how to support me through it all. The world around me seemed to be too much to handle. I spent a week in the hospital recovering, but upon leaving I still felt I lacked the tools and support I needed to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Then, right in the middle of my current battle, began another. At the age of 17 I lost my best friend to suicide. Although I had witnessed the effects of suicide before, nothing could have prepared me for the deep depression I was about to face. Seven months on the couch. An unrecognizable girl in the mirror.

Grades dropping. My social anxiety was once again at its peak. I can’t express how many times I had considered joining Tamara. Thankfully, I had my mom. An unstoppable advocate, even with her confusion with the system. She successfully got me into a different form of treatment and to this day I can recognize that it not only saved my life, but made it into one I wanted to live.

Now, I lead the healthiest lifestyle I ever have. I regularly partake in journaling, exercise, and meditation. I have built strong, stable friendships with phenomenal individuals. I successfully completed my first year of college with a 4.0 GPA. I volunteer with two organizations that help me partake in my passion of helping others. However, most importantly I now recognize the girl looking back in the mirror at me. I no longer flinch or question who she is. My sense of self is one of many triumphs I have taken while on my journey to recovery. But, I couldn’t have made it this far alone. I needed proper professional support. I, among thousands of other youth, fell between too many cracks in our current mental health system. Cracks that could have been and will be avoided with ACCESS Open Minds. I wouldn’t have had to wait for the help I needed. I would’ve had a voice in the care I received. I would have felt welcomed by the environment I wished to get help in. These changes will not only change the lives of thousands of youth, but it will save them too. I am overwhelmingly proud to be a part of this project. It is time we change the face of mental health for my generation and the ones following. Please consider supporting youth like myself in the community by making a gift to the ACCESS Open Minds project. A centre in Sarnia-Lambton will work with young people to provide support at a crucial time in their lives and to help get them back on track and strengthen their ability to manage their mental health in the future.

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