I am proud to have been born and raised in British Columbia, one of the most beautiful corners of the world!
I graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2007 with a Bachelor's degree in History (specialization in Canadian Political History) and a minor in Geography. After graduating, I decided it was time to see the world, and I spent the next four years teaching ESL to children ages 4 to 13 in South Korea and China. Working as a teacher to young children is one of my fondest memories. When I returned home to Canada I settled in Victoria, and I am glad I did! I worked for three years as a Constituency Assistant for a Vancouver Island MLA, and have since moved on to work at the University of Victoria for the Faculty Association as an Administrative Officer.
I decided to run for a position on the Greater Victoria School Board because I wanted to take my passion for education and mental health advocacy to the school district level to ensure that no child, youth, or young adult had to struggle to manage their mental illness like I did. Read more below to learn about my story.
Learning through challenges
Since I was little I've faced challenges. I was born with a cleft lip and palate, which would result in me having a speech impediment. Growing up with a scarred face and speech issues was a real struggle; not a day went by when I wasn't self-conscious about how I looked or how my speech sounded. I was teased at school because making "s" sounds was difficult. I spent many nights in front of the bathroom mirror twisting and turning my mouth into shapes to try to make the right sounds. One of the things that got me through these tough years was the support and care of primary school teachers and school counselors. I learned early on that teachers can make all the difference in the lives of our children, because they made a difference to me.
The beginnings of my mental health struggles
I first started to experience mental health issues in high-school. I was constantly angry because of the dark cloud that had passed over my life, and I felt I had nobody to turn to for support. In the 90's and 2000's we were not talking about mental health issues, and the supports to help students experiencing distress and grief weren't available.
This very difficult time continued until I was in university. As an adult I was able to access resources and counselling services, and I felt that I was able to start getting a foothold on my mental health issues. The road to recovery was a long one, but I'm finally at a place of confidence with myself and my mental health issues.
In 2017 I turned my attention as an activist and advocate to the mental health, especially stigmatization. The stigma that surrounds those of us with mental health issues is pervasive, and we need people to be willing to stand up and acknowledge that this stigma exists, and than work like heck to break it down to make our lives better.
Utilizing social media and various blogs I wrote about my struggles and spoke of times that were tough, not to gain sympathy, but to help others struggling with mental health issues see that there is someone out there speaking for them.
Running for School Board
In June 2018, I gave a presentation to the Greater Victoria School Board on mental health literacy. This was one of several presentations and talks I have given in and around the community, with the goal being to
reduce the stigma around mental health issues and support those who are still struggling. Every new story of a young person who dies by suicide is a unique tragedy and the work I do is intended to reach people, especially youth, who are struggling. I believe that our schools have an important role to play in supporting students in every way, including by raising mental health awareness and providing resources.
After much thought and careful consideration, and a few conversations with friends and colleagues, I decided I would throw my hat into the proverbial ring to run for the Greater Victoria School Board. I want to broaden the reach of the school board, have us hold open houses all over the district so we can hear form families about education issues that matter to them, and I want to bring fresh energy and new ideas.
Above all, I want to be a spokesperson for young people living with mental health and addictions issues now. Schools are places where we educate our children, but we must remember that schools also have a role in nurturing the emotional well-being of children too. This is the focus that I will bring to school board: one that brings children and their emotional and social needs back to the center of what schools should be doing.