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Murad’s story: Breaking down stigma in mental health

Written by Murad Wancho

My struggles with mental health began after I had just graduated from university. I was about to go to law school but had a year off in-between.

Before that time off, I was used to a certain structure and routine. While I was in undergrad, I was busy working as a teaching assistant and a research assistant. After graduation, I went from being extremely busy to having nothing to do each day. I tried getting a job in between but nothing really worked out.

The decline in my mental health was progressive. There wasn’t anything in particular that happened, I just felt like I was getting lower and lower. Then it got to the point where I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t move. At that point, I knew something was wrong – it wasn’t normal or just being upset – it was something different. That’s when I knew I had to do something. I was eventually diagnosed with anxiety disorder and depression after connecting with therapists and a psychiatrist.

I also reached out to the Family Navigation Project (FNP) at Sunnybrook. They provided me with information on how to get connected to a psychiatrist, along with other resources. I went to the psychiatrist who recommended medication and suggested academic accommodations including taking a lighter course load to focus on my health. I ended up staying with my previous therapist, but I think FNP is a good platform because they help provide you with resources.

Later, I joined FNP as a Youth Engagement Partner to help share my experiences and insights on how the mental health system can be improved. I also participated in my first RBC Race for the Kids which supports FNP and youth mental health. This is an important cause and means a lot to me.

This year, being one of the first members of FNP’s Youth Advisory Council means offering my voice to help FNP connect young people with the mental health services they need. FNP’s Youth Advisory Council brings together young people with different lived experiences. I think it’s helping to break down stigma because each person can shed a light or new perspective on mental health. We are from diverse backgrounds and want to improve mental health care for young people.

In my personal journey, there are different ways I manage my mental health. I find that physical exercise is very important. That could mean taking a walk or going to the gym.  I also focus on hobbies that I enjoy, such as being outside and exploring an area. Photography is another hobby that I enjoy. I also try to be more present. I feel like when I’m not as present or not as in tune with what’s going on, that can have a negative impact on my mental health.

Another thing that helps me is journaling. Sometimes there are so many thoughts going through my head but it’s hard to verbalize what I am thinking. Journaling helps make things clearer for me.

I feel there is still stigma in mental health. Just one example is that there is sometimes a perception that if you’re a man, you shouldn’t be upset or sad. But no matter who you are – we all have emotions and different things we’re dealing with. It’s important to learn different ways to cope with mental health and for anyone to reach out for counselling or support when they need it.

Learn more about the Family Navigation Project (FNP) at Sunnybrook – sunnybrook.ca/familynavigation

FNP is not a crisis response line. If you need help in an emergency, please call 911 or visit your local emergency department.

If you’re feeling like you’re in crisis or need somebody to talk to, please know that help is also available through community resources:

About the author

Murad Wancho

Murad Wancho is a member of Sunnybrook's Family Navigation Project's (FNP) first-ever Youth Advisory Council.