Break the stigma of mental health – Part 3

“As a [social work] student they’re always saying you need to have empathy, you have to put yourself in their shoes, but not to a point you get overwhelmed. They would always say only those who’ve been through can truly understand. And then when something happen to me they say you can’t be a social worker now. And I was crushed. Cause I thought, how else better to help?”

            One can find resilience within him or her when things get hard. To be resilient is to take from the ground all the shattered pieces, and to construct something new out of it. That’s exactly what Colleen* did. Since her teenage years, she has been writing poetry. By combining words into verses, she is putting together the mess hardships have done in her life. As Colleen said, poetry is a way to externalize feelings and thoughts into something constructive instead of destructive. Being a Rendez-Vous Arts participant, Colleen published two poetry books. Overall, she sold more than 300 copies.

“I like this apartment; it costs me my arm… and my leg, and my feet and my head. This month I had 42$ for food and toiletries”

            During the following weeks, Colleen will be moving to the Church Apartment Program (CAP) offered by the West Island Citizen Advocacy (WICA). This program serves 7 buildings for a total of 44 residents. The residents benefit from a subsidized rent, weekly visits from a social worker and social activities to break isolation. Colleen was overwhelmed with joy when she first found out she was accepted into the program. By offering such a supportive environment, CAP is promoting resilience for people living with mental health issues. Without the financial and social struggle they encounter on their own, the residents can focus on their well-being.

To sum up Colleen’s story, here’s a short video she made about her daily struggle.


This is the third article of a three-post series on Colleen’s narrative.

Click here to read Part one and Part two.

*to protect her privacy, WICA did not use their last name.

Virginie Grenier-Deschênes


One Response to Break the stigma of mental health – Part 3

  1. I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed every single word of your story, I thank you so much for sharing, your testimony has enriched my life because I can recognize myself in many of your experiences, …me too, I have learned to be nicer to myself and not judge myself so harshly, I have learned not to forget that I have limits, …but that those limits do not define me, do not make me less, that those are limits I didn’t chose to have, therefore I should be more understanding with myself, and like you said life with my limitations has also made me wiser.

    Thank you again!