Taking the step to volunteer before trying to work again.

workforacause

Throughout the year, I’ve been volunteering with the Mental Health Awareness Club at the University of Calgary. I haven’t really been able to juggle school very well this year, but volunteering has been a incredible way for me to feel like I’ve still been contributing to my community in some way. I specifically chose this club for its inclusive attitude and understanding when it comes to mental health. After the first meeting, I knew that I wanted to get involved on a deeper level than just a general member.

I’ve been volunteering as a junior executive and it’s been an incredible experience. I have had the opportunity to have my voice heard when discussing mental health issues on campus and I feel like I have contributed to the awareness about mental health, especially as it relates to students. There have been some milestones this year that I have reached in my advocacy for mental health and they really started with my involvement in this club.

I first reached out as a personal experience panelist at one of the events put on by the MHA Club. The event surrounded stigma and even at that time, I was still so far in my own self-stigma that it was hard to even speak during the event. But – I did it! I answered questions that the audience members had and sat right next to two of our city’s child psychiatrists that we were lucky to have in attendance. It was a growing experience for me because at that point, even most of my family did not know about my panic disorder or that I had a depressive episode and that was the reason why I quit school for a year. After the event finished, I began to really take my mental health advocacy seriously.

I participated in an initiative put on by the club called Scribe Videos. My story is right on their Facebook page, it is on YouTube, and it is 100% public. Holy hell that is scary. But, I know that if what I said in those videos helps even one other person to know about the resources that are available, it will have been so very worth it. (Check out part one and part two here!)

At the time of recording, I was feeling really good about my mental health. Things were starting to get into place where they should be. Listening to it now, I can hear how confident I sounded and how happy I was to hopefully be making a difference. Though things happened later in the year that really set me back, I feel like I’m getting back on that path and it’s such a good feeling.

The club members have been so understanding for the days that it’s hard to make meetings or events, and there’s really no judgment there. I can call in because I can’t leave my house and they understand – I don’t have to hide the reason or pretend to be physically ill like I would if I had a job. The environment is so very important to my success this year and I’m not sure I would be in the same place I am now – even writing this blog if it weren’t for the supportive community of the Mental Health Awareness Club.

If you’re in the same situation I’m in, where you want to have a schedule and a reason to leave your house during the day, even get out of bed… I strongly suggest that you consider volunteering in an environment that will be just as accepting. Not only does it -ahem- look awesome on your resume, but it’s a great step before getting back into the workplace that gives you a commitment, but is also flexible.

As always, if you’re on campus at the University of Calgary – check out the Mental Health Awareness Club and consider joining for Fall 2016 to have your voice heard in advocacy for mental health awareness on campus.

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