One of the biggest battles in the mental health community supersedes the need to end stigma, settling on the area of recovery. We pour endless resources into raising awareness. While it is important, access to services are even more important.

Canada has an incredibly long way to go when it comes to appropriate medical access for people with mental illnesses, eating disorders, depression, and so on. Counsellors and therapists properly trained in these areas can be hard to find. Psychiatrists tend to have large waiting lists, with far too few doctors available to meet the demands.

Oftentimes, the services provided are not enough to actually assist with regaining control of ones’ life.

Even with the right medication, it can be exceedingly difficult in the midst of mental health struggles.

There are plenty of non-government or medical resources out there. However, the vast majority of them also focus more on awareness than on actual recovery.

Perhaps part of the issue in this area is many people still disagree on what recovery means. For some, the word itself is off-putting. It suggests there should be a way to magically make all of their struggles go away. Recovery, for most however, is about learning how to live a successful life in spite of their issues. It is learning how to regain control from the things that threaten to take away control.

Many websites and online resources provide articles and tips on how to learn these things, but lack consistency and community. Dealing with any kind of mental health struggle is difficult when you feel alone. You feel as if no-one understands. It can feel as if it is you against the world, leaving hope to fade further and further away.

Recovery is one of those complicated things because it looks drastically different for everyone.

It varies depending on the mental health issue and the way it affects a person to begin with. For some, recovery is simply about being able to get out of bed every day. For others, it’s to avoid self-harming or slipping into destructive habits. Sometimes it becomes about learning how to reconcile their mental illness with the rest of their self so they can move forward in their lives.

We need to creat a place where people feel safe enough to be raw and real about where they’re at Somewhere we can learn from one another ways to pull yourself back up during recovery. We especially need this because a big part of the recovery process is celebrating each win. This needs to be done not just with yourself, but with others who understand their value.

In my life, the online world has often provided that. Nearly two years ago, I had the opportunity to become involved in an online publication aimed solely at support in recovery. It changed a lot for me. Doors opened to connect me with people who had faced the same, or similar, things. I was able to hear and learn how they and managed to navigate through those tumultuous waters.

Some were things I never thought of, like providing methods and tips to work through specific situations. Others shone new light on tactics I had tried in the past, but hadn’t been successful in because of the way I had gone about them.

The most impactful thing is the sense of community it creates.

It gave me a vast understanding that I am not alone in these battles I face regularly.

In turn, I started developing the ability to share the things that had worked for me in my recovery. I did it in case there was a chance it may help someone else.

There is something to be said for the existence of these kinds of resources online. But, I still believe having a genuine place where people can physically meet in their own communities would be even more powerful. Having a place where others can relate to those for whom simply making it out would be a huge victory. It gives people a place to celebrate with themselves and others.

Sharing in our battles, our recovery, our victories, and our losses enables us to inspire, encourage, and grow with one another. It cultivates an atmosphere free of judgment, allowing us to learn to be ourselves. We can figure out how we fit in, regardless of what our issues are.

What would be most ideal is having organizations who are educated in these areas creating this kind of space. There, they could provide access to resources and information, while also ensuring it remains a safe and positive environment.

The more involved I become in mental health, the more I recognize having resources to work towards recovery are key. While quick access to care is of the utmost importance, recovery helps push people towards living more fulfilling lives.

Recovery resources help pull people away from facing their mental health struggles alone, providing them with a community to encourage and strengthen them.

We are fortunate to have at least one resource dedicated to cultivating that kind of community, created for our youth by Dufferin Child and Family Services. Shed the Light is a group created several years ago and sees great success in its impact in the local high schools.

Now, we just need to work on creating these resources for adults and hopefully see greater resources in general come to the area.

Part 2 of a series for Mental Health Awareness Month. Click here for Part 1. For more information or to participate in the #thisisMH and #takingbackMH campaign by Libero, an online recovery and resource community, visit
A version of this column appeared in the May 11, 2017 edition of the Orangeville Citizen.


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