I grew up not really knowing about mental illness – not even when it was looking me straight in the face. My mother was mentally ill and abusive, but back in the 60s, it wasn’t something we talked about. As a child, I knew so little of her situation, but I knew she was ill with something. Even later, I didn’t really know about mental illness until I started seeing behaviors and seeing situations that reminded me of my mother.
I started working at Coast Mental Health back in 1984 before the Peer Support Program existed. I started by taking people on outings, and continued for 7 years before switching careers to become an Early Childhood Educator. 1998 is what I refer to as my personal disaster year: my son passed away from an overdose, and I was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. I started to turn inwards, and eventually resigned from my job. I soon found myself near homeless and struggling to continue.
That was when I found myself back at Coast Mental Health. I started going to the Resource Centre on Seymour and Davie and started participating. It wasn’t until I began working with the Peer Support Program that I saw a huge change in my recovery.
The Peer Support Program quickly gave me a better way of dealing with my own past by helping people manage theirs. I wanted to help others to honour those who stepped in when I couldn’t speak for myself, particularly my Grandmother and Grandfather who took care of me when my mother couldn’t.
I have trained many people who have graduated from Coast’s Peer Support Training Program and are now actively working throughout the Lower Mainland. With every graduate, I ask the same question: why do you want to be a Peer Support Worker? I always get the same answer.
I want to help because someone in my past helped me many years ago.
For us, it’s the small things that make us proud to be Peer Support Workers: taking our clients out to recreational activities like bowling and gardening, helping them open a bank account, or even just sitting down for a cup of coffee to listen to their story.
This is why I ask you to please support Coast Mental Health with a gift this holiday season. Your donation will make a huge impact in the lives of both Peer Support Workers and our clients. With your help, we can continue reaching more people by passing along the positivity, just like you are today by making a donation.
Thank you for listening to my story, and thank you for your kindness.
Michael Faithfull, Former Coast Client & Current Peer Support Worker