Priscilla Cherry

Supporting mental wellness

When she came to in the hospital, the first thing Priscilla noticed was the IV needle in her arm. She doesn’t remember the ambulance ride, or the doctors huddling around, trying to help her.

But she does remember the fear that led up to her suicide attempt.

“Mental health is not something that is talked about or acknowledged. There’s even stigma within the stigmatized community. Often times, we don’t talk about it until it’s too late,” she says.

The stigma is what stopped her from reaching out to her friends and family.

 

 

“I didn’t talk to my parents about what was going on with me. It’s not that I was afraid that they wouldn’t believe me, it’s because I stigmatized myself,” she explains.

“It’s sad and heartbreaking that it ended the way it did, with me lying in a hospital bed.”

Seeking help wasn’t easy. After being released from the hospital, she was told she would have to wait six months to get help. Worried that was too long of a wait, she reached out to a United Way partner agency that offers immediate support to those dealing with mental health issues.

A lot has changed since then.

Once a recipient of mental health services, today Priscilla works in peer support services at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), using her personal experience to help others who are struggling.

“There are way too many people in this world for anyone to feel isolated, alone, or disconnected. It’s not about mental health, illness, or diagnoses; it’s about creating a community. We’re giving people a sense of belonging, something bigger than themselves, and you can’t put a price on that,” she says.

She encourages those who are struggling to reach out and ask for help.

“Mental illness is a disease like anything else. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You aren’t alone in this. There is a community of people going through the same thing, and we’re here to help.”

She’s extremely grateful to United Way donors for providing resources that enable agencies like CMHA to help people enhance their mental health, build resiliency, and recover from mental illness.

“When you donate to United Way, it’s people’s lives that you are improving, or saving. I don’t know if I would be standing here today if it wasn’t for partnerships like United Way and CMHA. “

 

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The #unignorable local issue

In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental illness or addiction problem.

By age 40, about 50% of the Canadian population will have or have had a mental illness. 

70% of adults with mental illness indicate their symptoms first emerged during childhood and adolescence.

In 2017, United Way of Calgary and Area investments supported 31,769 children and youth to succeed.