A few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Brent Seal, a young adult with lived experience, who spoke about the youth perspective. He provided the audience with practical and useful suggestions for engaging with youth. I wanted to have Brent share a bit of his story with you, for a few different reasons.
First and foremost, I consider Brent to be an amazing champion in our world. Not only did I have the good fortune to work alongside him for a few years, but I was also blessed to be able to receive some guidance and support from him when our family was going through a particularly difficult time.
Brent has a genuine gift of being able to share his experiences in a way that creates understanding and curiousity. He is able to eloquently speak to the concerns and barriers many youth feel and experience. He is able to do this not only because he has lived experience, but because he actively seeks out the thoughts and opinions of youth.
Brent is a true example of courage and resiliency. He inspires and generates hope in youth and families alike. Thank you Brent, you are a true champion.
Guest Post by Brent Seal, Mavrixx
Supported By Champions
It was May of 2007 and I was sitting in one of the EPI (Early Psychosis Intervention) program intake workers office talking to her about what went wrong. I had been doing everything I could to get and stay well since my first episode of psychosis in 2005, and then…relapse.
My relapse was far worse than my first episode…thinking people wanted to kill me, thinking the world was coming to an end, attempting suicide, being hospitalized and receiving a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
The future was looking bleak.
The prognosis (outlook) for schizophrenia is a tough one to swallow. Stats and stories abound to reinforce a sense of hopelessness, but recently there has been reason for hope.
Progress with medication, combined with early detection and treatment has offered some the ability to recover fully and others to recover enough to function despite ongoing symptoms.
I was one of the lucky ones to benefit from these new options.
Were it not for innovators like Karen Tee and others bringing the Early Psychosis Intervention (EPI) program model to BC from Australia, the support I received from my family, EPI team, school (SFU), friends and others, my life would either have ended by now, or be severely dependant on institutional or family support.
I’m talking FULL LIFE SUPPORT.
When I was sick (experiencing psychosis) everything was a struggle. I remember being terrified to go shopping with my parents, being afraid to drive and certainly couldn’t attend classes.
I signed up for a class by correspondence thinking that would be easier, only to believe that everyone on the online discussion board were spies.
With support, I have been able to recover.
Instead of continuing to cost the provincial government thousands of dollars in care, I’m taking care of myself with minimal support.
Instead of cycling in and out of hospitals for the past 7 years since my diagnosis, I’ve been making the rounds in high schools and conferences, as a speaker.
Instead of suffering through intense emotional pain for the past 7 years, I’ve literally had the best years of my life, despite still experiencing some symptoms.
The appreciation you feel after you’ve stopped struggling is something that’s hard to describe.
The joy you feel when you make just a little bit of progress towards health and wellness is addicting when you’ve experienced being unhealthy.
The duty you feel, when people in your life, whether family, friends or strangers (like mental health workers) care about you more than they need to or maybe even should, is one that takes a lifetime to fulfill.
The appreciation, joy and duty have driven me to dedicate myself to raising awareness around mental health and wellness and trying my best to decrease the suffering and isolation of young people in need.
What gets me most excited is the progress I’ve seen, especially in the awareness of mental health.
Leaders like Michael Landsberg, Clara Hughes and now even Kofi Annan (former Secretary General of the UN) have been contributing to the dialogue.
Organizations like the Vancouver Canucks, Canada Post and Bell have infused incredible funding and energy into the effort.
And smart, strong, sophisticated young people from across Canada have been raising their hands and voices through blogs, YouTube videos, youth summits, student clubs and social enterprises strengthening the grassroots momentum.
As things seem to be getting worse if you focus on media articles, things are improving fast both on the ground and from the top.
I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to have been diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2007, but with the efforts of many, the luckiest is yet to be diagnosed.
If you’re someone who’s doing what they can to make that happen, I say thank you.
If you’re someone looking for ways to contribute, I say reach out – to your doctor, to a non-profit, to a teacher or counsellor. The mental health community is one of the most supportive and welcoming communities you’ll come across and your offer to contribute will be fully appreciated by whomever is lucky enough to receive your call.
If you’re currently struggling, I also say reach out. Whatever you’re going through can pass. But it often takes support from others – sometimes professionals, sometimes those close to you. Sometimes it takes medication, but one way or the other, there are people who will help you figure a way out.
Whatever situation you’re in, I thank you for taking the time to read this and I look forward to hearing from you and I’m honoured to be a part of this special community with you.
Keep Well and Keep Inspiring,
You can connect with Brent by visiting his website: http://www.mavrixx.com. Brent is available for speaking, consulting and coaching. Brent recently shared his wisdom at the TEDxSFU event. It is well worth the watch.