April 16 – 22 is National Volunteer Week, and we couldn’t be more excited to celebrate the unsung heroes who make the world a better place! These amazing individuals give their time, energy, and resources for a cause they believe in, and we’re so grateful for them.
At the Mental Health Foundation, we’re fortunate to have a network of dedicated volunteers who share our passion for mental health awareness and substance use advocacy. And today, we want to shine a spotlight on one of our rock stars: Twila.
As a mental health advocate and former registered nurse suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), volunteering for the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) has been a big part of Twila’s life.
Dealing with PTSD was difficult for Twila. When she was first diagnosed with it in 2015, she sought help at work but her condition was not recognized, “I was told to keep quiet, and I felt compelled to conceal my struggles to keep my job.” In 2018, she finally decided to come out about her struggles with PTSD and fought for recognition from the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB). Help took a long time coming and unfortunately, she reached her breaking point: “I contemplated suicide, struggled with substance abuse and other unhealthy coping mechanisms, lost my job, my income, my home, and my credit took a hit. I struggled financially, but I’m grateful for the financial relief that finally came through disability benefits.”
Dealing with mental health issues can also be an isolating experience. It’s not uncommon for family, friends and colleagues to distance themselves from someone who is struggling. “It was the case for me”, confides Twila, “those I loved and worked with pulled away, unable or unwilling to cope with my struggles. It also almost cost me my marriage. It was a hard and lonely time, and one that took a toll on me both emotionally and physically. But looking back, I can see that it was also a wake-up call. I realized that I needed to take ownership of my mental health and start prioritizing self-care if I wanted to feel better.” Twila was able to use resources funded through the Mental Health Foundation to help her get better. Volunteering with the Foundation was a natural next step to give back the help she was provided in her time of need.
As a mental health volunteer, Twila has the opportunity to break that silence and raise awareness about mental health. “After years of struggling with identity issues and feeling lost, I now wake up with a sense of purpose and direction, knowing exactly who I am and what I want out of life. The work I do fuels my passion; it ignites a fire within me that didn’t exist before. I find joy in what I do and I know I’m contributing to a greater purpose … I’ve also had many rewarding experiences while volunteering, including building connections with others who share my passion and helping people open up about their struggles.”
Twila, who has been volunteering for over a decade and worked in various volunteer positions at the Foundation encourages anyone who is interested to get involved in this worthwhile cause. “The truth is, mental health is an issue that affects many people, yet it is often shrouded in secrecy and shame. It can be difficult for people to talk openly about their struggles, and this only serves to perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental health. However, volunteers can be a powerful force in changing this narrative. By sharing their experiences and exposing the realities of mental health, volunteers can help to reduce the stigma that so often prevents people from seeking the help they need.”
The Foundation wouldn’t be able to do what it does without volunteers like Twila. From the bottom of our hearts, we want to say thank you and all of our volunteers at the Foundation. You are making a difference in the world, and we are so grateful for your dedication and commitment.
My passion for mental health stems from my personal struggles with anxiety, depression, and PTSD, as well as my family’s history with mental health issues. I experienced bullying and teasing throughout my childhood, and was raped at 13 years old by someone I knew. It was hard finding a safe place growing up, and I grew up at a time when talking about mental health problems was not common.
Are you passionate about mental health and eager to make a difference in the lives of those struggling with mental health and substance use issues? The Mental Health Foundation is seeking trustees to join our board.
As a trustee, you will have the opportunity to work alongside a dedicated team of professionals, volunteers, and stakeholders to help shape the direction of the foundation’s initiatives. You will be able to use your skills and experience to help raise awareness and reduce mental health stigma, and provide resources and support to those who need it most. Together, we can make a positive impact on mental health in our communities.