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Mental Health YXE's Heidi

Mental Health YXE
Tell us all about Mental Health YXE.

Mental Health YXE began as a simple outlet for myself on Instagram, in June 2017.  I had no clue if I would gain any type of following, but I was surprised by how quickly the numbers grew. The more it grew, the less it became about “me” and more about “us”. This page is all sorts of things, and I think there is something for everyone. I post very honestly about how I’m doing, which includes the good, bad, and things inbetween. I do monthly themes, which I really enjoy. I’ve done themes such as anxiety, self-care, photo projects, mood disorders, and more. I love to ask my followers questions, to include in my posts, to get a variety of thoughts and experiences. On top of that I post quotes, create little digital drawings and memes, share local info, and so on. Oh, and YXE is the airport code of Saskatoon - a lot of people wonder about that.

Tell us about yourself and how you became an advocate for people living with mental illness.

I’ve likely had Major Depressive Disorder since I was around 14, but wasn’t diagnosed until my early 20’s. A large part of what helped me to decide to get treatment was a college teacher that talked very openly about her experiences with therapy and medication. I had never heard someone talk this way, and it opened my eyes to the possibilities. So with her help I started seeing a therapist and talking with a doctor.  Ever since then I’ve been a regular mental health consumer, getting therapy, using medication, and other supports.

A month prior to starting the Instagram page, I had spent 3 weeks in the psychiatric center. It had gotten to a point that I was severely depressed, and working with my primary doctor to tweak my meds was not working. I had 5 appointments in a 2 month span, and we just didn’t seem to be able to get it right. I eventually showed up to the ER asking to be admitted as I was starting to feel unsafe. In those 3 weeks we got my meds changed up, and I was super grateful for the support. I now have a psychiatrist which I didn’t have before, so now we can do more nuanced adjustments when needed.

So, how did I become an advocate? It started pretty early on with my circle of friends, I’d let them know about things I was going through and didn’t hide it. That lead some friends to also getting help. Which leads us to my page, I decided I needed to go beyond my immediate circle, because I wanted to reach as many people as I could. And because my page is open to the  public, it has led to being asked to do presentations, which again furthers my reach. And well, here I am.

What is the importance of public speaking and advocacy in today’s climate? Do you find that it is difficult to advocate for mental health awareness and if so, how do you overcome those barriers?

I think no matter the time frame it’s always been an important topic, and continues to be so. There are always new challenges and old ones that fade, but the need remains the same. My personal experience has been that once people realize you are speaking from personal experience, they are more than willing to listen. It’s also important for me to let people know “hey, this is my story and the resources I use. It’s ok if you do it differently”. The best way to overcome barriers, is often fairly simple. Be honest and respectful.

What articles or interviews are you most proud of that you have written?

I really like the article I wrote on the difficulty of feeding myself properly when I am depressed. It’s something I’ve felt shame over in the past, and many people commented the same. That felt good, and it felt good to provide some tips on how to overcome this.  I’m also proud of the CBC radio interview I did, because it was something different, that I orchestrated myself by being brave and sending an unsolicited email.

How do social media platforms work for your business or messaging?

As of yet I’m not a traditional “business”, but I do get messages from people looking for support or resources. I try to make it pretty clear that I’m not a therapist, and people understand that. I let people know about some support options available, I’ve even had nurses and other professionals message me and ask if there is a group for this or that issue. I have a whole big resource list on my website to help with this. Other times someone is just hoping to chat for a few minutes, and if I can, I’m happy to do that.

You quoted “Mental illness wants you to stay quiet.” Why is this quote important to share?

If my advocacy needed 2 slogans they would be “you are not the only one” and “you are not alone”. My quote “mental illness wants you to stay quiet” is a direct link to that. So often I hear “I thought I was the only one”, “Thats me too, I didn’t know other people have that problem”, and stuff of that nature. And why do people feel this way? Because they aren’t talking about it, usually because there is a sense of shame or embarrassment that coincides with the mental illness. Saying the words out loud of what you are dealing with, especially to the right person,  automatically is a step towards healing. So of course mental illness tries to avoid that.

What are your hopes for the future of mental health care for young adults?

One of my biggest hopes is that the stigma around the topic continues to be broken down. I’ve seen a lot of change over the last 10 years, really thanks to various online campaigns. It’s my hope that one day getting mental health treatment will be seen the same way as any routine test to check on your health. That, and that waitlists can get shorter.

What is the future of Mental Health YXE?

I am always dreaming and scheming about what comes next. I have a variety of speaking opportunities coming up, some of which are fairly unique compared to the talks I have given. I’m also very excited about a video project I’m involved in, that won’t be ready until early next year, so I’m really having to be patient! I’d like to expand my article writing to a variety of outlets. Lastly my biggest dream is to somehow turn this all into my actual paid job, which in the past I would have never thought possible. Now I’m seeing that it could happen. Keep your eye out, because I have a feeling even things I haven’t thought of are coming my way.

Thank you so much for sharing with mindyourmind!

Instagram @mentalhealthyxe

Photos from @mentalhealthyxe's Instagram