Catherine de Beaudrap has navigated the mental health system for over 15 years. Now a parent and a teacher, she reflects on her past and how new changes to the system represent a gift to future generations.
As a teacher, Catherine de Beaudrap sees daily the struggles that many young students face. As an individual who faced similar struggles as a youth, it is her one hope that sharing her story can help others like them.
She wants her students’ journeys to mental wellness to look different to her own.
Catherine’s battle with mental illness started, as with so many others, in junior high school. Anxiety and depression crept slowly into her daily life. Eventually her needs surpassed what her school could offer as resources. In an attempt to find normalcy, she reached out to her family doctor, who simply administered medication without offering options for psychological support or therapy.
Catherine’s parents advocated for her, but they continued to hit roadblocks while looking for appropriate support. Public heath services had long wait times that led them to look in the private sector. Even with the increased accessibility, trying to find a psychologist or psychiatrist who fit Catherine’s needs on their own was difficult. On top of that, there was no communication between the different services she accessed, making treatment less effective.
By the end of high school, she had turned to alcohol as a form of self-medication.
Her depression and anxiety followed her into University. Hospitalized twice for depression and suicidal ideation, she got the immediate help she needed, but was offered no long-term treatment plans. Her life became a cycle of reaching a crisis point—sometimes overdosing on her anxiety medication—and turning to emergency rooms for support, before falling back on the limited counselling services available to her at University. After she graduated, the cycle only continued, punctuated by bigger crises.
She felt lost. Her struggle with her mental health had become complicated by addiction. Catherine felt like there was nowhere to turn. Even a stay in a detox facility failed to offer her long-term solutions to her struggles. Each service she was offered felt like a dead end.
It took over a decade for Catherine to finally be connected with services. She’s well today, but counts private practices as the main factor in her recovery.
“My experience with accessing public mental health and addiction services has been plagued with obstacles, frustration and defeat,” says Catherine. “Because of this I have become passionate in sharing aspects of my story and my point of view to help improve our system for myself and others.”
This fall, Catherine became an enthusiastic ambassador for a new program to be opened this winter in Anderson Hall at the Royal Alexandra Hospital: the Addiction and Mental Health Access 24/7.
Soon there will be one door for help, and that door will always be the right door.
This centralized and integrated intake location will offer one door of entry for mental health support to all residents of Edmonton, the surrounding communities, and even beyond. The 24/7 access centre will also provide telephone support, in-person assessment, crisis outreach and patient stabilization at any time of day or night. Says Catherine: “It makes me feel really warm inside, knowing that my students and my own children won’t have to go through the same experience I did.”