For a long time, I avoided telling other people my story, probably because I was scared of being judged and treated differently. Now, it is a source of pride. That part of my life and my path is what has forged the person I am today.

Lots of young people experience mental health problems, but not very many talk about them. By sharing what I’ve been through, I hope to overcome this stigma in order to inspire other kids to open up about their own psychological distress and get the help they need, without any shame attached to it.

At that time in my life, everything was dark. I wanted to put an end to it all. I was convinced that was the only way to escape my suffering and the feeling of despair that wouldn’t let up. I didn’t think much of myself back then, so much so that I sought out any opportunity to self-destruct. My parents’ unconditional love and attention wasn’t enough. Nothing was.

One day, it just took over. Even getting out of bed in the morning was too much for me. My life was in danger. I needed help.

That’s when Sainte-Justine stepped in. Checking into the psychiatry unit was a big turning point for me. That’s when my hope of getting better was rekindled. I realized that things were far from over. The teams at Sainte-Justine helped me see that there was a glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel. A light that your generosity keeps on sparking in the Sainte-Justine Tree of Lights. But I had to understand and accept that there wouldn’t be any miracle solutions and that I had to give therapy my all. It would be long and hard, but it would be worth it in the end.

Mur pensee positive

When I left Sainte-Justine, it was only the starting line on the road to recovery. But with the assistance of the incredible team of professionals, I had already accomplished the most important thing of all: I actually wanted to get better. I had more confidence that I could make it happen. I didn’t feel ashamed of what I was going through. And I found, somewhere deep inside me, the will to keep living and make the most of every moment.

I worked hard, from one treatment, one step forward and one victory to the next. Even today, I’m still at it, and I know there’s lots more to be done. Every day, I fight to overcome severe anxiety and cope with my intense emotions. They’re not pushing me toward the path of self-destruction anymore. They’re a source of strength.

Three years later, I’m still here. Every little win fills me with joy.

Despite how important mental health care is, teens don’t always get the services they need when they need them. Anxiety and depression can affect every aspect of a young person’s existence and lead to serious consequences for them, their family, their friends and society as a whole. These can include violence, early school leaving, addiction and even suicide.

I’ve always said mental health problems are like a cancer of the soul. I dream of the day where all young people across Quebec who are struggling can get the right care.

To help other teens who need Sainte-Justine to reawaken their inner light, please give generously. During the month of November, help us make the bottom of the Tree of Lights shine bright and be part of this touching show of solidarity for the families of Sainte-Justine throughout the holiday season.

Léa-Maude Lavoie

*The remarks expressed in this article reflect the opinion solely of the author and should not be considered as representative of the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation.