New Mentality Ignites Youth to Stand up Against the Stigma of Mental Health
“I’m not different than the person beside me because I struggle with mental health. Depression and anxiety is not who I am, it’s just a part of me. Mental health is out there, people might not want to talk about it, but I do.”
Just two years ago, Ben couldn’t talk to anyone about his mental health challenges. Now, standing on stage in front of over 800 people, Ben did something he never dreamed he would do.
Five years ago, Ben’s struggle with mental health began. At the age of 14, he was diagnosed with anxiety and depression and spent his days in and out of hospital. Feeling like nobody understood him or dealt with the same issues that he did, he pushed away his friends and family and lived in his own isolated world, all out of hope and out of energy.
After feeling this way for almost three years, something happened that would change Ben’s life. In 2014, he was referred to a youth engagement focus group that was hosted by Lutherwood, which aimed to empower youth to talk about mental health and influence change in our Region’s mental health system by sharing their experiences. Although he was skeptical at first, and didn’t think he would fit in, those feelings quickly changed as he walked into the room and realized that he was not actually alone. Everyone else in the room had the same struggles that he did.
Through the support of the other peers in the group and the staff at Lutherwood, Ben realized he could make a difference here. When Lutherwood partnered with KW Counselling to form a local chapter of The New Mentality, a group of youth who work together to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, Ben became a facilitator for the group, who calls themselves Ignite – to ignite the youth voice in our community. He is passionate about talking about mental health. Through the support of Lutherwood and The New Mentality, he now knows that our struggles are nothing to be ashamed of.
This October, Ben was given the opportunity to share his story in front of a large crowd at Oktoberfest’s Annual Blooming Affair Fashion Show, which donates a portion of its raffle proceeds to Lutherwood’s children’s mental health programs, including Ignite. He was nervous at the thought of public speaking, but was also eager to share his passion with others, so he accepted the challenge.
And what a fabulous speech he gave that night. Reaching over 800 attendees of the event, Ben was able to inspire hope and help the audience understand the importance of making mental health okay to talk about. As someone who experiences mental health challenges daily, his message was especially powerful.
Ben is fortunate to have had the experiences he had at Lutherwood and Ignite, which helped him realize he was not alone and that he could make a difference. But for others who have not had these opportunities, Ben has made it a priority to reach them.
Thank you Ben for being a great advocate for youth mental health!
We are very appreciative of the strong partners that continue to make The New Mentality happen: KW Counselling Services, the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health and the KW Community Foundation.