This story is part of OUR VOICE MATTERS, a collaborative project created by CAMH’s Youth Engagement Initiative and HealthyDebate.ca.
“Everybody should know about mental health. It’s so scary when you don’t know anything about it and you are experiencing the symptoms.”
At 12 years old, Chloe experienced her first panic attack. Unsure of what was happening to her and fearful for her life, this moment became her fuel to speak out about her experiences and get involved within the mental health community.
Chloe and her family had no prior experience or knowledge about anxiety or depression when she first started experiencing symptoms.
“My grandpa died and I never really felt what death felt like to me before. So I started getting anxiety. Neither of my parents knew what anxiety was. I didn’t either. My mom called an ambulance…I was so scared I was dying. I asked the paramedic, ‘am I going to die? I was in grade six. I was twelve years old.”
At CAMH, Chloe works a project called Game Changers. It develops educational resources to help start conversations about mental health with youth. The resources are co-developed by CAMH’s clinicians alongside youth advisors, like Chloe, to make sure the resources are youth-friendly, informed and useful.
Chloe recalls when she and a friend completely “tore a document to shreds,” because of its lack of youth-friendly language and information on mental health. Having youth support education for other youth eliminates medical jargon, and makes resources more accessible.
“If I had a program like this when I was a kid, I would have understood the symptoms better. I wouldn’t have been so scared and felt like I was alone…felt like I was an outcast.”
When a provider recommended Chloe go on medication, she felt pushback from her family and friends.
She hopes to challenge the stigma surrounding medication and the long-term need for it and wants people to know if there’s something that can help you live a happier and fuller life, you shouldn’t be afraid to try it.
“Since taking medication, I am the happiest I have ever been. I am not saying medication is the way to go for everyone, but is a doctor recommends it, don’t be afraid to try it. I want people to know it’s a normal thing.”
Chloe hopes to show that experiencing challenges with mental health is more common than people think, and no one should be ashamed or afraid to speak out about it.
“I used to suffer in silence before. I was always afraid people were going to judge me because I had anxiety or depression. I want to help people who are suffering in silence because it’s the worst feeling in the world.”
Chloe is currently in the Early Childhood Studies program at Ryerson University. She hopes to become a teacher and bring the discussion about mental health into her classrooms.