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Systems improvement through service collaboratives: My two-day conference experience

I just returned home from a whirlwind trip into Toronto to attend the Centre of Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH)'s knowledge exchange event on Systems Improvement Through Service Collaboratives (SISC).

In other words, it was a two-day conference with the biggest and most influential mental health heroes from Ontario, and I was invited as a volunteer to share my story and talk about my work with mindyourmind, a youth mental health website. Attending this conference was a dream come true, honest to goodness. Two friends from mindyourmind traveled to Toronto with me, and we spoke to a big room of people about a smart phone application we are designing to help youth in crisis. It was such an honour that I honestly feel like crying as I write this.

I'm feeling quite sad to be home now. I felt completely invigorated by two days with dozens of people who not only recognize mental health as a key issue but actually want to hear about my personal experience in the mental health care system.

This trip has revealed to me just how dead my life is here at home. I want to be out in the world, I need to be out in the world, creating change, talking with like-minded people. I want to speak as a mental health advocate every day of the week. Nothing feels more natural to me! Writing is wonderful - it will always be my first passion - but I'm so isolated here in my apartment. It keeps me sick.

Dear universe, please connect me with more opportunities like this one. I want to share my story, go places, meet people, and give my input to create positive change in this world. I've been in Ontario's mental health care system for thirteen years, accessing services across the board. I know hospitals inside and out, from the emergency room to the general psych ward to the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit. I have sought and received treatment from dozens of psychiatrists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, and orderlies with hearts of gold. I know private therapy, I know residential treatment, I know what it's like to live with suicidal thoughts every day and still keep going. This is beyond a university education. This is REAL life education that can help hundreds of others, if not thousands.

To everyone at CAMH, to everyone involved in the Service Collaboratives, THANK YOU. Thank you for helping me feel like a person who matters. Thank you for respecting me and my story. Thank you for showing me that I can turn the darkness of my mental illnesses into light and then giving me the pathway to do so.

I want nothing more than to continue to share my insight with the world. If anyone reading this has an opportunity for me to continue in this line of work, for one hour or one day or one year or a lifetime, SIGN ME UP. For real, I want nothing more than to keep these powerful connections alive and to help them thrive.

In upcoming posts I'm going to break down some of the powerful messages and ideas I learned at the SISC conference, translating them into everyday language that all readers can benefit from. I have pictures, poems, collages and more to share with you! I hope you're as excited as I am because this is truly groundbreaking stuff!

As for tonight, I can't wait to fall into bed. Being so inspired is exhausting in the best way possible!