This morning, I spoke at the Courage to Come Back Award 2013 Launch for Nominations held on the 34th floor of the Scotiabank Building. Coast Mental Health has done so much for the mental health community in the areas of housing, providing meals, activities, support, and building awareness. I'd like to thank them for the difference they've made in my life through this award. Here's what I had to say:
Hello my name is Sandra Yuen MacKay. I received the Courage to Come Back award last year in the mental health category. I struggled with schizoaffective disorder for many years. Tormented by hallucinations and delusions and dealing with side effects of medications, I felt my life was over many times. But I dug my way out and became an artist, writer and public speaker on recovery. I published a memoir My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness to share my story, build awareness and reduce stigma.
So a colleague and friend, who is the coordinator of The Art Studios, thought I was worthy of this award and nominated me. That in itself was an honor.
Then one morning, the phone rang, I picked up the phone, and it was Lorne Segal telling me I had been chosen for this award. I was absolutely thrilled. When I received the award and stood in front of over 1000 people at the gala, my life was definitely transformed on personal level and in the way others perceived me.
I met the other recipients and during that short time, we shared a bond knowing the trials we'd been through and the joy we felt upon receiving our awards together. To be part of that experience at the gala, where people opened their wallets and gave toward the foundation to help people in our own community was profound. Generosity and humanity flowed in that room.
Since the award, I was named as one of five Faces of Mental Illness in 2012, a national campaign which included advocating to Members of Parliament, appearing on Canada AM, and visiting the Governor General and his spouse in Ottawa.
This past fall, I spoke at a special event in Nanaimo, I was featured on a bus ad in Terrace, BC and I received a signed photo from the Minister of Defense praising me on my advocacy work. MP Don Davies called me from Ottawa to say how insightful my memoir was and encouraged me to write more.
All these things came on the heels of receiving the Courage to Come Back Award. I believe the Courage to Come Back award played a large part in subsequent events and successes in my life.
There are others who deserve this award. People that have walked through fire and emerged ready to aid and inspire others, to give others the courage to move forward. Your child, sibling, relative, friend or colleague could be the next Courage to Come Back recipient.
So, if you know someone who you think is worthy of this award, I urge you to nominate him or her. And that person may one day stand and be acknowledged for their perseverance and dedication to giving back to others.