CMHO will be posting a new weekly web series featuring stories from parents and youth who have experienced high quality treatment at one of Ontario's Child & Youth Mental Health Centres. We are sharing these stories to show that when given the opportunity to access treatment, kids with mental health issues can move forward and have great lives.
I was always told I was born at the "wrong time."
My mom was going through a hard time because my dad went to jail and my brother had a lot of medical issues -- at the time, things were a mess. Throughout my life I got passed around: from ages 3-5 I lived with my great-aunt because my mom was not stable enough and my dad was in jail and my brother lived with my great-grandmother. When I was 5 I went back to live with my mom and then when I was ten I went to live with my great-grandmother along with my brother. From the time I was 11 until I was 12 I lived with my mom and dad, where I witnessed a lot of alcohol and drug abuse and violence. I then went to live with a family -- it was not foster care, just a family that was willing to take me in – and I lived there for a year, then I went back with my mom again.
We lived in a shelter for about 6 months, and then she met a guy who was an alcoholic just like she was. I would come home every day from school to find no groceries in the house, but alcohol bottles everywhere and a lot of fighting and screaming going on. One day this man and my mom were going to go driving, both drunk, in a snow storm. I spoke up and said, “If you go, I am calling the cops.” My mom’s boyfriend got very mad and started beating me. That's when I realized I needed to get out.
I called the cops and my mom told me she didn't believe me and didn't care. I then went to live with a friend -- that didn't work out, so I went into my first foster home. I started self-harming, getting into heavy drugs and drinking a lot. I started meeting up with men who were a lot older than me and I stopped going to school. I did not care about anyone, not even myself, and the drug use got worse and worse. I wanted to know what was so good about drugs and alcohol that it could ruin my family but at the end of the day it also made me "feel better".
My life started getting worse. I hurt myself more and more and tried to end my life many times. I thought all hope was lost, but then I eventually found hope again.
I went to Peel Children’s Centre in June 2011. It was the scariest day of my life -- I did not know what to expect. At first, I was still very confused and mixed up. I did not know how to deal with my emotions, but I always had someone there to help me get through it, and eventually I started dealing with my emotions in better ways -- like talking to one of the great staff or having a shoulder to cry on. I got to feel like a young girl and not an adult trying to carry the weight on the world on my shoulders. I felt like I got my childhood back. I got great counselling and formed great relationships and learned that I am a strong, young woman that has been through a lot, but I will not let that define me.
I finished grade 11 and 12 while still at Peel Children’s Centre and got the District Turn Around Award, Most Improved Student Award and graduated with honours. I stopped harming myself because I learned that just because someone hurt me, it doesn’t mean I should hurt myself. I learned that life is precious and that I can use my struggles as strengths. I found hope. Peel Children’s Centre gave me hope, strength and my life back. If it wasn't for Peel Children’s Centre supporting me and helping me deal with my mental health challenges, I don't think I would be where I am today -- or even be here at all!
I have now been self-harm free for almost 3 years and drug-free since I left Peel Children’s Centre. I am now living on my own and I’m a college student studying Human Services in hopes of helping people who may be going through similar things I went through.
Remember that life gets better – it’s all about strength and determination. You are your own person and you can be anything you dream of being.
Stories like this one show us that mental health treatment works. But community child & youth mental health centres do not have enough funding to keep up with the current demand for services. Kids like Amy are waiting for months, or even years, to receive the life saving treatment they so desperately need. Talk with your local MPP today and ask them to invest in kids mental health, because our Kids Can't Wait.
Amy* was a client in Peel Children’s Centre’s residential treatment program from the ages of 16-18.. She reached out to Peel Children's Centre to let them know that after the care and support she received there, she continues to do well. Amy wanted to share her experience with others to give them hope that things can get better for those who are struggling and for those contemplating suicide. We want to thank both Amy and Peel Children's Centre for sharing this story.
* Name has been changed.
Please remember that if you are in crisis, please contact 9-1-1 or head to your nearest Emergency Department