According to Crisis Services Canada for every suicide death there are an estimated 20-25 attempts. An average of 275 people attempt suicide in Canada everyday. Aly Raposo had suicidal ideation, When you look at the number of awards and the high level of recognition Aly has learned it has to bereave that she contemplated suicide.
In this episode of Humans, on Rights my guest Aly Raposo talks candidly and openly how she has dealt with being diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder and high anxiety to become a strong voice of offering hope to others contemplating suicide.
Canadian Suicide Prevention Services 1-833-456-4566 and Manitoba Suicide prevention Services 1-866-367-3276
See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
This podcast was recorded on the ancestral lands on Treaty One territory, the traditional territory of the Anishnawbe, Cree, Oji Cree, Dakota, and the Dene peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis nation.
This is Humans, On Rights. A podcast advocating for the education of human rights.
Here's your host Stuart Murray.
My guest today is Aly Raposo.
Let me just give you some of the highlights before we get into meeting her.
She is listed as one of the eight influential millennials in Winnipeg.
She was a young woman of distinction in 2017, the YMCA YWC.
A woman of distinction In 2017.
The future 40 finalists from CBC Emerging Leader Award in 2018, Nominated for the future leaders of Manitoba in 2020, Nominated for the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2021.
She has chaired events, she has volunteered.
She has done a tremendous number of events here in Winnipeg in the community and I now have the opportunity to work with Aly on the human rights committee Counsel for the city of Winnipeg.
It is quite an incredible resume and I only touched on the tip of it, Aly, but welcome to humans on rights.
Thank you so much for having me Stuart.
So Aly, you know, you have got an incredibly broad, eclectic kind of background but I wanted to just get a sense of who you are, where you were born and some of the things that you looked at in school, some of the things that you that interested you as a young person growing up and then we're gonna get into why we're going to be talking about something that's very, very difficult, but we'll get there about suicide and your involvement specifically on World Suicide prevention Day.
But let's start off a little bit about ali proposal.
Tell me a bit about you for sure.
Well, for myself, I was raised fully by my mother when my parents got together, they were super young and in love and then later on in life, things didn't work out too well.
So for me, I was raised in an immigrant family.
My family is from Portugal.
My dad's side of the family is from Portugal, my mom is from Canada, she was born in Thunder Bay.
My mom went to school quite early on to go be a paramedic when she was young, so being a single mom, not being able to kind of take all that on.
I was raised with my grandparents, so my whole life I was raised very much so in a church setting.
I spent most of my days actually in a church and so I would have sleepovers there with all my cousins and there's a ton of us english was hard for me to learn in the beginning because I was completely engulfed in my culture.
So when I went to school I'd find myself not really catching on to some of those things that kids talked about in in kindergarten, that was definitely a fun journey event today.
Sometimes I still struggle with some words and I went to school in Elwood here in Winnipeg.
And then growing up I was really, really big into sports.
I was kind of that girl that was involved in everything, almost too many things, all the extracurriculars that you could think of, I was involved in, you know, soccer and that was really what took over my life.
But anything you could think of, that was me right and going on to school, I went into john gun and then I graduated from Transcanada Collegiate Institute.
So that's a little bit about that stage of my life.
Okay, and we'll get back to a bit more, but I just pick up on the soccer thing.
I mean, I have to ask you, did you check out the women's gold medal?
Soccer team in the olympics?
Oh my goodness, Yes, I did.
I couldn't be more proud, It was just terrific.
That was an incredible thing, considering I think that everybody agrees that back in the London olympics, I think they were robbed and so this was sweet revenge.
And and so do you watch women's soccer when you get a chance?
Yeah, I do.
I that's all I really watch, I try not to get too involved in all the sports, otherwise I feel like I spend most of my time sitting on my couch.
But for me like soccer, growing up was honestly I started playing when I was a timbits and the timbered league.
So I think you're about three or four years old when he started playing and I didn't stop until I went into my first degree at university.
So it was, it was a majority of my life I ended up playing competitive and then I ended up playing on a scholarship for quite some time.
So for me it was it was big and then being able to see not only just a team from Canada, but women's team from Canada was terrific for me.
Yeah, it was incredible.
So you gotta you went to university or college on a soccer scholarship, a lot of my books and stuff were paid for.
So it wasn't all of my education, but it was all some bursaries and some of that stuff just because I spent so much of my time not only playing but also coaching and then doing refereeing on the side.
And then it came to a point where I had to make that decision, I'm not gonna put more of my time studying, am I going to put more of my time and getting a part time job while in university and it all just kind of ended up with you know what it is, what it is and I had a ton of fun doing it.
So, so let's go back now.
So you graduated, you're going to university, did you go to university here in Manitoba?
Yes, so I went to the University of Manitoba and I took my Bachelor's of Arts degree?
I was a major and women's and gender studies and a minor in sociology.
And the majority of my, my first couple of years, I would say that I was very involved in school.
I didn't really know that there were any extracurriculars that you could take in school back then.
I just thought it was like, you go and that's it, you put your head in the books, you drink your coffee and your head off to class.
But I finally got involved in politics and it was student politics that I got involved in.
So for me in my in my undergraduate, I actually ran for a woman's representative and I was successful in my run and that's when I started to see a lot of advocacy work out, right, I was successful in my run there and I loved it.
So very much that I decided to go up A level the next year.
And then I ran for the University of Manitoba Student Union Representative for the Faculty of Arts.
So I served as that for a few years as well.
And that was just fantastic.
So let me just pause for a moment there where we happened to be not too time date this podcast, but we happen to be in a federal election?
What sorts of things did you when you say you had fun or was a great learning experience?
What were some of the takeaways that you had ali from your experience at the University of Manitoba on for the Students Union for, you know, you're running politics there?
Well, I definitely experienced politics.
I didn't know I was never into politics and so when somebody, I kind of approached me and said, ali, this is this is great for you.
You know, like you're, you have a strong voice, you're eager to make people happy and to advocate for change, whether it be good or bad change, whatever.
When it approached me, I was like, not a chance and I didn't actually know what the election was going to be like.
I had no idea what it was like to throw your name in the hat and then kind of get out there and put the posters out there and make yourself so, so publicly vulnerable.
So that was one of the things that I had learned really quickly kind of overnight quickly.
So the run itself was, it was terrifying.
But what I want and it was only by a sliver in my first election, it was like, whoa, okay, well, I could have been a lot more prepared because then I could have had way more votes, but at the same time, it was just like, it was a huge eye opener and one of the things that I think I took away the most from being in the election itself was it doesn't matter the level that you're running, it could be a student, it could be municipal to be provincial or federal.
It's incredibly, it's incredibly tough to do so and to put yourself out there in a world where everybody has access to you and all the things that you do, it makes you really brave to do it.
And I really like that.
I really liked the challenge for myself of being, it's going to be hard and people will probably make fake campaigns of using my own, my own policies and all of my framework, but you know what, it was worth it.
And when I was successful in the run, not only did I have perks of being in my own office and university, which was really neat because then I could take naps in between classes, but I also have the opportunity to, to meet with so many different folks on campus and groups that were considered minority groups on campus and listening to their voices.
I learned so much from them.
And that's when I really put my head down and I said, this is time where we got to do some work because there's people here that aren't having the same kind of experience that I am, but they're paying the same amount of I as I am and they're and they're doing the same thing that I am.
So why can't I make it the same for everyone here.
I want everybody to not only get good grades and enjoy their studies, but really experience the university itself and what it's like to be in the culture and I realized that a lot of people weren't having that experience.
So that's when politics really changed for me, and I had a whole new mission of what I want to do for a moment while we're talking politics.
So what a great learning experience, you know, they as you say, once you were successful, but as you were sort of putting yourself out there and running, what sorts of things did you hope to accomplish?
You know, as you were saying, look, I'm a candidate, here's what I'd like to do, What sorts of things would you did you go on to sort of focus on at that point?
So at that point I was really involved in wanting to make mental health resources more accessible.
My first year of university, I went into university already being diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder as well as depression.
And then come my first year university, everything just kind of got more intense as it would with university being so stressful and that's when I got the diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder as well as borderline personality disorder.
So I'm managing all these different things while also trying to kind of figure out who I was and what my studies were.
So when I went to university, I recognized that my my support system wasn't there, my support system, being my family, you know, whoever is close to me in my life, they're not there to help me through a panic attack or they're not there to help me if I'm having a really bad day with my own thoughts or feelings.
So I thought, where am I going to go if I were to have a panic attack?
Because there's times where I just leave campus and I just didn't want to be there anymore.
So what are the people that are suffering and that live on campus?
Exchange students, international students, what are they dealing with when they, when they leave campus?
There's still no support system for them.
So my number one pillar Was making sure that we had, you know, resources available and 24 hours a day free and making sure that people know knew how to utilize them to not just have them in the beginning of a syllabus in the beginning of the year and saying this is a number you can call but also explaining to them, these are your rights when it comes to what you need.
This is what you're entitled to don't ignore X, Y, Z.
But that was my biggest, biggest pillar that I ran on.
I mean first and foremost, a lot of times people, you know, they run because they just kind of want to make a make a mark of some kind.
You clearly had a vision at that age and stage, which is very impressive just coming back alley talking about you.
So dealing with anxiety and you know, all these issues that you, you now can talk about, How did you know that that was something or how did you feel or what, how is it that you became aware that these were sort of issues that you know had to sort of deal with?
So that's a that's a terrific question because that was that exact part right there of understanding and being aware was definitely the most um the most testing and trying time of my life.
So when I was 14 at this point, I think it was grade nine or 10 now I had started feeling really, really anxious all the time, but I didn't know at the time it was anxiety, so my heart was racing.
I was kind of sweaty all the time.
I was always worried about something.
I would always think that something was contaminated in my food.
I have a tree nut allergy, right?
So I would always think everything is touching tree nuts or I can't eat anything at all and I would, I wouldn't eat anything and I was having such a hard time.
So from going back that girl that was in all the extracurriculars and being so outgoing, then all of a sudden feeling this weakness and I didn't know what it was.
I was convinced for so long that they didn't teach it any of this in school at that point.
Like bell, let's talk hadn't been around yet.
The larger campaigns hadn't been around yet.
So for me, my mom works in cardiology.
So when I found out about all this, I genuinely thought I had a heart condition.
So my mom took me to her, her work and they had me as an outpatient.
They did a bunch of tests for over a year and I even took ambulance rides thinking that there was a full heart attack.
And then I had one once doctors talk to me and said, you know, your heart is miraculous, you have a beautiful heart.
You're a young woman.
I shouldn't be seeing you this often when you're when you're this age, have you ever heard of anxiety?
And I hadn't heard about a single thing.
So for me that was just like slamming me down.
I'd rather probably at that age would have heard it would have been happier to hear about something being a physical ailment.
Just because I was so confused at that.
Why can't I fix it taking medicine one day and then have it dealt.
I actually didn't talk about it at all.
I hid that in my life until I was outside of high school.
So the rest of my high school years, I would come up with lies and fibs to my friends and say, you know, oh, I'm grounded, I can't come out tonight or my mom won't let me go out.
And it was, it was just because I did not want to be the person who would try to explain something that sounded so bizarre and I'm such a rational thinker, but nothing was rational or logical about what was going on with me in my head.
So I just was completely embarrassed and ashamed of it.
So it wasn't until after high school that I was even open enough to talk about it, let alone understand that there were other people dealing with that.
It took me a very long time to get to that.
And so did you use soccer as a way to, I'm going to say mask ali, I'm not sure if that's the right terminology please.
But I'm just trying to get a sense.
Did you, did you kind of use that as a way to deflect away from some of the issues that you were dealing with?
Because clearly you have tons of energy and you can see that that would really immerse you.
And as you said, you got so involved in soccer.
Is that something that you used as a way to as as maybe a coping mechanism.
I definitely have been and I without even realizing it, I've always been kind of that that person who takes things on and makes myself so busy with the routine that I don't really need to deal with that.
And that was also my kind of who I was, that's how people saw me, and that was my brand was that I was just that girl and soccer.
So I just went far and far and far with it and made sure that it was taking up the majority of my time after school, so that I didn't have to deal with these thoughts and feelings and didn't have to continuously lie or go on and on about lying to my friends about what was actually going on in my life.
So, that was definitely one of my ways of, kind of, masking and definitely figuring out I'm trying to figure out how I was going to approach it with anybody, and that must have been like, kind of, you know, I mean, obviously very lonely, somewhat isolating in the sense that you obviously had a lot of friends at school and just because of your personality would, you know, people would be I want to be around you, lots of energy, lots of ideas, and to sort of, have to put up a bit of a wall in front of that must have been very difficult, sort of, going through high school Energy University.
Oh, absolutely, it was so difficult for me and I felt for a very long time, I felt like I was missing out so much on my childhood because I didn't want to go out and I was terrified to be out in public somewhere and then have to deal with the anxiety and that's how I actually got my diagnosis of depression was because I was so isolated in my house and I was so convinced that there was not a single person out there that was going, that was dealing with any of this stuff that I just hid for so long that, you know, the depression came about and came to a point where I was just mostly in my house, in my room, I didn't leave the house, I didn't really eat, didn't have much of a sleeping schedule or anything like that.
I was constantly needing to be beside my mom at all times.
My level of co dependency was so high and that's really what what led me to realize and that I was suffering not only with anxiety, but I was also suffering with depression.
The how were your grades in school?
Yeah, my grades were fantastic and they always were grade 12 was when it kind of fell off the grade 12 is when I started forcing myself to go out and going out into parties and using the wrong kind of hoping mechanisms, I would drink like mad when I was in grade 12 and at that point I had no idea what I was doing or what I was doing to my body.
I was just out and partying and having fun, But that didn't help me at all in the long run or in the short run really, it was just beneficial and I stopped caring so much about school.
I put more of a, I'm finally living my youth out now and it's grade 12 and all my friends are 18.
They can get booze, we can go to parties and do fun things.
So that was really kind of where my life went in grade 12 and you could definitely see it in my grades, which was um you know I went from being honors role and the principal's choice, the entire university or entire high school, sorry.
And Then all of a sudden grade 12 comes along and you could see me just squeaking by and just graduating.
I honestly didn't think I was going to graduate on time in grade 12, interesting.
And so you know when you went to the University of Manitoba, as you say, you majored in women and gender studies, what what sort of took you there and I took a few classes.
I actually had originally went in there to be a nurse.
That was my first thing and I was a science student because my my love was in biology and my love was in science and facts and I was so into just studying and understanding this is that this is that there's no right or wrong answer.
But I stayed in there for quite some time.
I think I did my university one.
So just random courses electives.
And then finally I took a womans in gender cities of course and I was so hesitant because the stigma that's associated with Women's and Gender studies, especially in university at the time.
I'm sure it's still the same.
But it was just that it wasn't really, it wasn't a real degree and there was not really any concepts that you could actually take away and learn.
Whereas for me, I went in there and that's the first time that I felt like I had actually learned anything from university.
I felt like I was just having kind of a replica of my high school in my science days and all the other things.
Whereas I was completely learning this new world in this new concept of how things are perceived how people are treated, how people are treated and kind of injustice and when that when that was shown to me it was a complete eye opener.
So I was eager and I was hungry for that knowledge.
And so it not only made it interesting for me, it made it something that I was incredibly passionate about.
And did you find that as you started to learn about some of these issues and get more focused on, did that help settle you a little bit about who you are and some of the issues that you're dealing with?
So like I said, I came from a Portuguese family.
So understanding even the word patriarchy, right, that was something that was wholly new for me.
But imagine it makes sense and it made so much sense in the context of my life, right?
My family is very much so, I'm still very in their old ways and very much so in their in their culture and that's it is very much so a patriarchal culture and so I understood so much more and then I wasn't even aware of, that's not the way you're supposed to be.
I'm the only, I think I'm the only female in my family that actually ever went to post secondary university in the proposal family.
So for me it was it was something different and I always felt like I was different for doing it, but once I started learning more and more about it, it made so much more sense as to who I was.
I started to understand, you know, oppression, I started to understand what disabilities were and not just visible disabilities, but also mental illness.
And that's when I started realizing, you know, there's a lot of things that are intersecting in my life that do make me a person who needs to speak up and maybe there are other people at that point that can speak with me and maybe there's some injustice there.
So they really, really put me on my path as to not only understanding who I was, but my family was and then why I was feeling the way I was some days and so coming back to a little bit earlier in your, in your life, you talked about the fact you spent a fair bit of time in church.
I mean, maybe not necessarily attending, but that was a place that, you know, there were a lot of activities there when you were there.
Would you say that?
Would you say that you're a religious personality?
I'd like to consider myself still in my religion.
It took me a long time to be comfortable with it again, just because I didn't have a choice when I was young, it wasn't a choice.
And I just woke up every day on sunday and that was that you go, you go to church, you do your thing, you know, you have your worship and then you go home and we go to the home and we pray and that's what we do.
So when I left there and I went to all my cousins, went to religious schools and private schools, whereas I didn't because it was very expensive and I was a child of a single parent, so I went to public school, I had a completely different idea as to what life was.
I thought everybody went to church when I went to public school and man was I wrong?
So it took me a long time to kind of be comfortable again with you and going to church.
And I felt like I was forced into it and then I started learning about things in school and I started to have, you know, a little bit of resentment towards towards my religion, but it wasn't until only a few years ago that I really got more in touch with myself and I understood that you know what I do and I do have a hope in a higher power and if that is Christianity than it is, but I started getting mean to myself too, for not going to church and thinking, well I can't be a christian if I'm not attending church, obviously that's not the case.
So right now I would consider myself somebody who's religious but not somebody who who spends my entire day is that I wouldn't introduce myself as somebody who Yeah, no, fair enough, I just, you know when you talk about you know culture and bringing brought up and kind of sharing all of that, I think, you know, it's one of the great things about living here in Winnipeg.
I mean we have a very diverse culture and there's a lot of things that we can learn from the cultures that we have in in in the city of Winnipeg in the province of Manitoba, so there's a huge benefit and I appreciate you sharing some of those thoughts with me on this, on this podcast.
Ali I want to talk a little bit about you specialized in education, I'm sorry, I apologize, you specialized in addiction studies.
What was the transition there that got you involved in addiction studies?
So for me, I grew up with so many different folks and friends that, as I said, when I was in high school grade 12, that's the path that I was starting to go down was using substance and using it in the wrong way coping mechanism.
So I went into that area but I was also able to get out of that area, whereas a lot of my friends in high school weren't and they are all kind of still in that area.
And so I went and after I would say probably mid bachelor's degree, I started working in mental health.
I wasn't just an advocate for it at this point, I was actually working in nonprofits.
So you know, mood disorders association and um, I was working one on one with individuals doing peer support and I saw a huge disconnect in all of our services and a lot of our services will either address one or the other and it will address addiction or it'll address mental health, but they'll never take the two as a co occurring disorder and that was something that I always felt needed to be dealt with as a dual approach and at the same time, but not treated the same way but dealt with at the same time and ongoing care and I just noticed so many different disconnects and bridges and I would see where people fell off in their recovery and it was always because of something would happen with either one or the other, what came first, the chicken or the egg.
And so I wanted to get down to the bottom of that and just recognizing that there weren't that many services that would take on somebody who, if they wanted to go into mental health, you have to be sober.
If you wanted to go into an addiction place, then we don't have a psychiatrist here at the same time.
There was just so many things that really didn't sit well.
So when I went and looked at my studies, I've seen that I could do counseling and then I also said that I could specialize in something and seeing that there was the option to specialize for a mental health position, but also specialize in addictions that was like a no brainer for me at that point, I find it fascinating because the other things that you did that you and I crossed paths on is um you know, you raised a bunch of money for upside down tree and in particular you during these covid times, you very creatively came up with a comedy festival that was virtual.
I mean that was brilliant.
And and so what got you, what got you involved in in sort of moving into helping organizations from a funding standpoint to sort of broadening your personal experience.
So, you know, like for my myself, I always wanted to, I had the biggest heart since I was a little girl.
And I always used to say to my mom that I wish I could just wave a magic wand and make everything better for everyone around me and I think I've been holding that weight since I was a little girl.
But I found out when I was in, I want to say, just after grade 12 after graduating high school, I noticed that there was places that needed money and I would read about it in newspapers and I would read about it in Random different blogs or something on the Internet.
So for like the Alzheimers society when I was, I think I was just newly 18 years old, I saw that they needed money and somebody I knew that was very dear to me, suffered with Alzheimer's.
So I said, Okay, well I can do that.
So I decided to host what I called a coffee break and raised a ton of money just by selling coffee cups and by making it for whatever price you'd like to do And you can fill up your coffee and you can give me it for $5 or you can give me it for five cents.
And it was just kind of up to the world and I realized that I did so much change there and I got to speak to some of the clients that were at this living center that received the funds and that was for me.
So heartwarming that I realized, wow, I actually, I can make change and I can cultivate change and I could do something to creative way and use both those skills and that's kind of where I took off and I decided like this is where I want to be.
So anytime that anything would hurt me in my life or I would experience some sort of, some form of pain.
I lost my friend when I was 18 years old to a drunk driver.
So ever since then I've been holding yearly fundraisers, different kinds of fundraisers with kind of tongue and cheek names to raise money for mothers against drunk driving and that was for me, always a way to heal.
And instead of using my negative coping mechanisms, I recognize that there is a unique way to do it and not only do it and put the money somewhere, but also raised a little bit of advocacy at the same time.
So give me an idea of what one of those tongue in cheek names was.
Just, there was one year I called it a strut for Brandon flys and then walk for buddies and the buddies walk.
So I created the safe buddies walk.
So not only like walking and that could be so many things, which is what I was so pleased about the name for us.
Not only should we be with people all the time, you know, for safety reasons, but my friend's nickname was buddy.
So we were able to kind of run off of that and use his name while also saying that like we are walking together, we're in solidarity with young people who want other people to stop drinking and driving not just mothers, but You know people who are 18 and 19 and we're buddies that kind of walk together and excellent.
Thanks for sharing that.
Ali one of the things that that I wanted to talk with you about is that you are going to be a keynote speaker At the World Suicide Prevention Day.
That that takes place here in September the 10th talk a little bit about what you're theme is, what you're going to be talking about that day.
And then maybe I'm going to ask you a little bit about what it means for you to be a part of this part of that, that special day.
So this year they do it every year and I'm not sure if last year was virtual, not I imagine it would be virtual.
We're having another virtual year.
And it was it was actually came about quite funny for me.
I was looking on indeed as I normally do just for volunteer positions because I like to just take on as much as I can.
I was looking for volunteer positions and I saw that there was an opening to sit as a board member for the Canadian Association for Suicide prevention.
So I went away and I sent in my cover letter and I sent in my application and I said they're going to be closing?
Probably the end of september I got a message saying thank you for your interest and then a few days later I get a email and as the executive director and he was asking me I guess my he's the one who gets emails and kind of reads them first before sending them off to the selections committee.
And he said you know I just I saw your board and I can't tell you what's going to happen with that.
But I saw your application and I read your resume, I read your T.
And it's I have to ask you, you know, we're looking for one more speaker for our event on World Suicide Prevention Day and while reading your CV I'm just blown away.
I need to know if this would be something you'd be interested in.
And I said well absolutely speaking is is one of my favorite things to do and being able to share my story to make sure that other people never feel alone like I did is 100% 1 of the things that that make me the happiest and and really remind me why it's so important.
it was brought to me kind of in a in a good way but I also feel that some fate behind it.
So it was really great and yes this year where there's going to be on september 10th.
It's going to be an online event and the registry is free and what's beautiful about it is it's all Canada.
Right, so the other two speakers that are involved are all across Canada.
I don't know where one of them is, I know one of them is in Hamilton Ontario, it's really neat to see that it's not just a Manitoba event, which is something different for me, usually I'm in province but knowing that this is going to be something Broadcasted wide, so it's going to be speakers three of us and then after that it's going to be going into a live panel, so three speeches are prerecorded and just so we can make sure that there was no technical difficulties in the day of and then through the live panel is what we're going to be dealing with.
So it's going to be live that day, it's gonna be moderated by Yvonne Bergman and she is just brilliant.
So it's gonna be, people are gonna be able to send in information that can send questions ahead of time.
The registry has gone quite far actually.
Um it's been sent out to all wh a staff, so, I mean, it's definitely something that's getting out there and and talked about.
Yeah, and what's great about it.
And uh so I'm so delighted to have you on this podcast Alley is that, you know, this is an international event, it's obviously the event that you're going to be participating in is Canada wide as a local advocate here to talk about world suicide Prevention Day.
It's just great to know that there are people like you who have made a difference, continue to make a difference and want to you know, reach out and be a part of that part of that process.
So will you be sort of sharing your personal story or do you have a particular angle that you're gonna be using in your talk on on september the 10th?
Yes, So this year's theme is creating hope through action and that can speak more to me.
That is kind of how I've always had my hope and how I've created my own hope with my own mental illnesses, action and you know when it comes to pain or when it comes to anything I've learned, I've decided to do something meaningful and to to make action out of what what the negative pieces are and turn that into something positive.
So for me it couldn't have resonated more with my life and my past and now what happens is yes, it is going to be my story.
So all three of the individuals that will be speaking are going to be sharing their story in order to actually be able to do the speech.
We are having to share about how we are a suicide attempt survivor.
So for me, I am a suicide attempt survivor and that is how we're sharing our story.
It's about a 15 minute speech.
So it is it is lengthy and we talked about kind of our story, who we are, what we suffer with, what we suffered through, and then ultimately how we were able to overcome the suicidal ideations, behaviors, thoughts, and actions and then kind of give other people hope into this is what I did, and this is what you can continue to do and then motivate them to understand and to be a little bit more open, you know, that I always call it the S Word, it's a word that nobody really likes to talk about.
Of course, it's a hard and difficult concept and it's a hard word to talk about.
But the more we talk about it, the more or the less we're alienating the word.
So for me, being able to do so and uh being able to share that with everything else is huge and it is something that I'm really I'm really happy to do.
I was worried, to be honest in the beginning when I took on took on this this role in this task with them, I said, oh my goodness, my grandparents are gonna hear this, everyone's gonna hear this, but the most important part is that people who are suffering are also going to hear it and that's really at the end of the day, what matters most to me, Yeah, I mean, you talk about the fact that this is very complex and a hard topic to discuss to talk about.
You say you talk about the s word referring to suicide, how did you come to terms ali that this is something that you wanted to share, you know, publicly?
I mean, it's one thing to have an intimate conversation with a personal friend or somebody you get to know that you trust implicitly, that you can be very vulnerable with when you go out and you start talking to Canada across Canada, you're part of a panel.
How is it that you've been able to get to that stage?
Because I think that's really where you look at something that has fear, but I think you have more courage than fear and so you're allowing yourself to sort of go out and do that.
How did you come to terms with that?
That's a great question because in my speech itself, I actually talked about how forever I kind of went from not talking at all about any of my mental illness for so long, To completely talking about it and talking about it, not just here and there, but being the first ever speaker for the first inaugural, when a pig march for mental health for being, I'm speaking at over 200 different schools in in our province and outside of the province as well.
Being traveling, I talked about how that was kind of my life, but then at the same time when I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, I was reluctant to talk about that diagnosis.
Even after speaking for three years, I was still reluctant to to talk about it.
And because of the name, the stigma that's associated with, it's just the name in itself is very stigmatized.
It hasn't been too much research on it.
But eventually I came to a point and I went to one talk at a school and I don't know what it was that day, but I just said, you know that day, I said, this is not real.
I'm being very real and I'm being very raw and true, but it's not the full truth.
And so for me, what does that mean?
That means being completely honest.
And I wasn't planning on saying anything that day, but when I went up to do my speech, you know, I started talking about it and then I said, and I have borderline personality disorder.
Okay, well, I guess we're going with that today.
So I ran with it and afterwards I had a young woman come up to me, she was a student at the school that I was speaking at and she came up to me just in tears and she said, you know, I've never heard anybody ever say that they had this before.
And I I, you know, I have to tell you?
Like, last, last night, I was sitting in my room and I was thinking about taking my life and by understanding that there's someone like you who has had all these awards and has done all these amazing things could possibly suffer.
What I have to do is is enough hope to get me going.
And so that moment right there was when I realized the truth is what's what's important and ever since then I've only ever, you know, grown with my accomplishments, going with my education and and my titles and my awards and so being able to stand up as somebody that's seen as somebody who maybe put on a higher level or being seen as somebody who's, you know, admired through through the younger generation and even the older generation, that was this is my time to say, I can look a certain way and I can be a certain way on social media or to the public, but don't think that I'm any different than just a regular person because I am not, I am not somebody that's not going to receive anything and mental illness doesn't discriminate and you know, suicidal ideation, It doesn't have a bias.
It's going to it's going to choose who it wants to choose when that's the way it goes, right.
So, knowing that I had this opportunity to do a Canadian speech and be live across Canada with my panel.
It was a no brainer and as as as scary it was, it was to say yes in the beginning, it was a no brainer for me and now that I've done, you know, I've written it out and I kind of read it and said this is exactly what needs to happen and it's perfect, I hope that it hit so many people that need to hear it.
Yeah, I suspect it will.
And if those things get carried on and on and somebody else hears something and then you have another chance to sort of share your story, there's no question ali that that being so open as you are and being so honest about who you are, there's a huge gap that that needs to sort of you have to fill that because the the stigmatization of of, you know, people that have physical, you know, a broken arm or something, you see that and you, you know, you feel sorry for somebody but people who are dealing with with mental illness, um they suffer in silence in so many ways and sort of have somebody like you come out and be so vocal and be so open about it and and basically, as you said, I I could have probably use most of this podcast, reading the awards that you have received.
So, you know, you look at somebody who has accomplished so much like you and yet you're open about some of the challenges that you're dealing with.
I want to just get a sense from you as you've gone through schools, do you find that there are more young men or young women That come up to you or have conversations with you or do you sort of say, you know what I it seems to be, 50, 50.
I think that it's more of the young women who come up and talk about it or are more engaging during the conversation.
I like to make sure that when I go to the schools, I'm talking to them, but not just feeding them with a bunch of this is what this is, this is what this is.
I'm gonna give them a bunch of, you know, really heavy information, so I really like to engage with them and I want them to engage back with me.
So one of the things that I always do and I make it mandatory, no matter what, even if I only have 10 minutes left, I make sure that every single kid in the room And I've done talks with over 400 kids in the room.
So I make sure that everyone there tells me one way that they're going to take care of themselves and that they're going to check in with some self care after this, after this day, maybe not after school, but when they have the chance and how important it is to do that.
So during that time I hear a lot of girls coming up right away and when I'm anxious, I like to do, you know, I like to read and I like to dance like this and it's more of a grab it out of the guys?
I'm pulling it on them and I'm trying to say, what are you gonna do?
I don't know, I might go for a bike later or I might go skateboarding with my friends.
So in terms of more of a public stance, the women or the young ladies were more eager to talk about it that way.
Whereas I've had a lot of young men come up to me afterwards and say like, I've been, I've been suffering quite some time now and, you know, that was actually more than the girls.
I think the girls were more wanting to go public and then they find me on social media or something and reach out there and say thank you.
But the guys would come up to me after and say, so, uh about that anxiety.
So what you end up, where did, where should I go here, kind of thing?
And so it was honestly more of the boys who wanted to talk about, talk about it behind the scenes, whereas the girls were more so open and able to be like, this is what I do, and that's what I do.
So it was very, it was very intriguing for me to see that.
And a lot of the times I actually would have teachers or THS even come up to me afterwards and say, yeah, I had no idea, but I guess I'm also suffering with this too.
So it was just, it was across the board different every time.
And do you when you talk about this alley to these students, you share some signs that are indicative of potentially contemplating suicide?
Or is that something that you weave into your conversation?
I I start off by telling my story right from beginning to each ongoing walking through each single diagnosis and what each diagnosis felt while still making sure that they understand that even though we may have the same diagnosis or funny people may have the same diagnosis, many of the symptoms can be vastly different.
So, I would speak about all that.
I would speak about to the point where I would even talk right up until the point, depending on the age group obviously of the Children, I would speak right up into the point where it came to the point where I was going to come to these ideations and these thoughts and I go right up until then and explain to them what it's like to to not have that go through and be somebody who has to live with survivor's guilt and somebody who has to go to the site ward and somebody who does have to stay for a week in a stabilization unit and tell them that this is this is what it was like.
I don't sugarcoat any of that.
But more so I always make sure that they understand the warning signs and one big thing for me is making sure that they understand it and other people.
So I always come up with a fake a fake person and call her jane every time.
And I say, you know, jane is, she's always dressed to the nines, she's got the best clothes, she's got all this stuff going on, she's so fun every sunday.
She has a potluck with her friends and she's always on all the group chats and she's in everything.
And then suddenly you see jane and she's walking around and it looks maybe like she hasn't showered in about two weeks and she hasn't been eating properly.
And then you notice that she hasn't had a potluck in two weeks and then she left the group chat like three times.
So, you know, I give them the warning signs and I said, what could possibly be going on in jane's life right now.
So at that point, it's kind of teaching them, like, understand to acknowledge what's going on in other people's lives because it is difficult to talk about if we can be that one person that goes up to somebody and said, are you all right at the end of the day that could ultimately be saving a life?
So teaching them wasn't themselves, but also teaching them how to recognize it, and others for others too.
That's a great way to, you know, give an example without, you know, sort of people can relate to that, right, because it's coming from you.
They see you telling the story and you're speaking obviously to an audience that at the level that they need to hear it.
It's not academic, it's personal, It's firsthand.
Um ali if there was one message that you wanted to give, someone who you knew it was contemplating suicide, what would that be?
I think the message would be, you know, sometimes it feels like we do good and then everything kind of comes crashing down and I think that's, and ultimately that is what I've heard the most and for people is that I was doing good and then boom, right again.
So what's the point?
That is the number one thing that I always hear is I was trying, I was doing good, I was recovering, I went to counseling or you know, I did this that day, but it's just the pain doesn't go away and it won't go away and I don't know what to do with that anymore.
So, I think ultimately the biggest, the biggest message is that we need to start celebrating the the smaller things in our lives.
So if you got out of bed today and you brush your teeth, that is a huge victory and we need to start celebrating it as if it is one if you were able to eat something after not eating in two days.
Well, my goodness, you deserve an award.
I don't think people often recognize how brave and how much that takes of an individual and I always say, you know, sometimes it always feels like one step forward, two steps back, but sometimes standing still is okay too and sometimes being not OK is completely okay.
So just being understanding that we don't have to be somebody who's going to check off all the boxes on a self care list in the morning, understanding that there's not a certain therapist or a regime that we're needing to understand, but you could just be a human being and that is completely okay.
So learning to be okay with it and learning to live for yourself.
I often hear if I I'm only living because you know, if I if it weren't for X, Y, Z.
If it weren't for this neighbor or my mom or this person, I wouldn't be here today.
Well I want everybody to start living for themselves and being here today for themselves.
So just as much as you haven't comforting your own life, you need to learn how we can love ourselves and be comfortable with that.
And it's not going to be easy and there's no meditation or there's no adult coloring book that's going to make it better and it's going to be hard, but you have to keep holding on because in the end you're going to be one of the strongest people out there in the world who is ready to take on the world and people are gonna be so jealous of the amount that you have of strength and how much you can take.
You know, I don't think that there's a better way to wrap this podcast up, ali than just what you've just laid out there.
You are an example of what you just said.
I'm thrilled and delighted to spend a bit of time with you on this podcast.
I wish you all the success because I know you're going to have it in your presentation on World Suicide Prevention Day on september the 10th and many, many times after that, advocates like you are, you're a gem, you're an absolute gem and we're thrilled and delighted that you're here in Winnipeg for starters, because I always like to feature some local advocates and and you're one of them.
So ali I just want to say thank you for taking the time to share your personal story, thank you for taking the time to talk about a very difficult subject matter, the S word I'm going to say it's suicide because I think we all need to sort of learn that I've learned that from you just in this conversation, so thank you so much for your time, your effort, your energy and your being such a strong advocate, you are a voice and we're we're delighted to have you in the city of Winnipeg, thank you so much for having me.
It's been terrific and I look forward to the future humans on rights is recorded and hosted by Stuart Murray.
Social media marketing by the creative team at full current in Winnipeg.
Thanks also to Trixie May bite you in.
Music by Doug Edmund.
Go to human rights hub dot C A a production of the Sound off media company.
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