TRURO, N.S. – At the age of 50, Guy Hebert decided it was time to go back to school.
And it was his own experiences that led him to study social services at the Truro campus of the Nova Scotia Community College, and to design a project on bullying for the college’s applied learning service café.
“I had a rough time growing up,” he said. “I was in a rough area, my father was an alcoholic, and I was bullied and abused. I was really shy and ended up suicidal. I know keeping things inside causes damage, and my goal now is to go into high schools and teach young people that it’s OK to speak out. My heart is with teenagers.”
Hebert, who grew up in Moncton, said he was getting into fights in order to defend himself when he was 11. Because of that, he got into trouble at school, and when he tried to explain the situation, he said the principal wouldn’t listen.
“I grew up being that child hiding in the corner,” he said. “When I was older I drank and took drugs to forget the pain.”
He drove trucks to earn a living, but after suffering an injury he was placed on disability and asked if he’d like to go back to school.
“I knew I wanted to help others, but I needed counselling first,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about why some things happened.
“I never finished school so I graduated from ALP (Adult Learning Program) and then enrolled in the social services program. I want to have a chance to give back.”
Jolene Wright also drew on her own experiences for her project, which dealt with horse and pet therapy.
“Animals can help us deal with our problems and build ourselves back up,” said the Central Onslow resident. “I’ve been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, so it hits home for me.
“I work around horses at times and I know it helps me. The horses know when I’m feeling bad.
“My friend’s dog isn’t trained for therapy, but she still helps. When I’m feeling down she’ll come to me. She seems to know when I need help.”
Wright noted that, while there is usually a long wait for mental health services, equine and pet therapy is more accessible.
“The animals help people with communication, setting boundaries and overcoming fears,” she added.
Other projects addressed subjects such as domestic abuse, gender, race, and addictions.