Local woman embraces new role to help address mental health issues

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TRURO - Twyla Wilband is no stranger to struggling with mental health issues, and if sharing her story helps others heal, she is more than willing to come forward.

The 27-year-old Truro resident has come a long way from her teenage years when depression consumed her life. Although she still has some struggles, her healing story is becoming an inspiration to others.

In fact, Wilband has become a volunteer community correspondent for Truro, through an Ottawa-based organization called Partners for Mental Health.

"I'm the only one in Nova Scotia," said Wilband, whose role is to bring awareness to mental health issues to the community, which she does by sharing her personal journey through weekly blogs and social media.

"It's hard to find people to speak out about personal experiences, but I'm willing to do that in the hope of reducing stigma," said Wilband, who used to "feel sad all the time and I didn't want to be around people."

She also admits to self -injury and attempted suicide as a young teenager.

"I often wonder what people will think, but I believe you have to be honest to reduce stigma and I want to use my recovery story to help others."

That recovery process began in 2009 when Wilband found someone on a health-care team who listened and helped her communicate her feelings. She then began volunteering with mental health-based facilities, and now embraces her role with Partners for Mental Health.

Wilband said the organization's new campaign, Let's Call BS, addresses negative mental health messages being told to youth. The campaign runs until Nov. 29.

"Youth are often told ‘you don't have problems, you're only young.' They are also told ‘it's your own fault you feel this way.' My mom was even told I was acting to get attention and some professionals said that too. People just don't understand." 

Through her community correspondence role, Wilband believes she is making a difference. She said people are commenting on her blogs, stating they relate and feel better knowing they are not alone in their struggles.

"The response has been positive. People have that sense of ‘me too' and it starts the dialogue. It gets people thinking they don't have to hide if they are struggling," said Wilband, adding since August she's had more than 2,000 hits on her blogs.

"I'm thrilled. It's encouraging ... people have thanked me and said it's a catalyst for change. This is not something to be ashamed of and it's important for people, especially youth, to get proper resources."

Wilband said another benefit of the online program is that "some people with mental health issues don't want to be visible. This is a way to reach out in a way that's comfortable for them."

For more information, log onto www.partnersformh.ca, http://callbs.ca or check out Wilband's blog at http://kool2bkind.blogspot.ca

Organizations: Partners for Mental Health

Geographic location: Ottawa, Nova Scotia

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