I wanted to raise awareness about mental health because of a difficult situation that I had encountered a few years ago. My team mate who was always a happy hockey player, with a good attitude, suddenly changed.

He wasn’t acting like himself, and some things really began to worry me. He lost interest in the game he used to love, his temper grew short, and his actions turned irrational. He started to make dark comments of feeling unhappy and unworthy. He was beginning to be very negative and started to isolate himself from other people. Nothing could cheer him up, not even friends or hockey. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me to leave him alone.

At first I thought he was just having a bad day, but when it continued I noticed it was more than that. My teammate was in mental distress and needed help. I wanted to point him in the right direction but didn’t know what to do, who he should talk to, or where he could go to get support. Mental health wasn't a common topic, and I didn't know much about it. I had never been in a situation like this before, I felt like I let him down because I didn't know what I could do to help.

I started getting involved in volunteering at the local mental health office and participating in youth programs to raise awareness of the stigma associated with mental illness. At times it was challenging trying to spread the word and get people involved, but I set small goals so I wouldn’t get discouraged.

Then I started promoting mental health I faced some road blocks doing presentations and putting up posters. I was told I wasn't able to show a great mental health video, even though it was appropriate and approved for the audience. I felt strongly about sharing it because it’s captivating and it gets the message across to youth. I was also told I couldn't put up mental health posters in public places. However I continued to promote the cause and I approached other venues and people who would support me.

The impact that I feel I have made by raising awareness is that people feel more comfortable opening up and talking about the subject when they know they are not alone. Many people have shared their stories and experiences about themselves, their friends or family. Several of them have suffered in silence because of the stigma. Anyone can have mental health challenges in their lifetime, and it can be very difficult. However it WILL get easier if you get help. Letting people know you are there to listen, can make a big difference. If you want to raise awareness you can start by talking about the subject with your peers!

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