I began my journey with the EPI program in 2005 after my first episode of psychosis, and I was lost. I had no idea what was going on, but I could tell people wanted to help. I had to drop out of school and move back in with my parents. It was a very hard time in my life. With the help of my EPI team I got back on track, but I didn’t take full advantage of the services offered. A year and a half later I had a relapse after decreasing my medication too quickly and piling on too many commitments. It was much worse this time with a suicide attempt and hospitalization and a diagnosis of schizophrenia. I was once again humbled by mental illness. This recovery was going to be longer I was told, and my psychiatrist encouraged more services and I took full advantage. I entered the 8-week educational group where we learned all about psychosis, the importance of medication, relapse prevention and stress management and connected with other youth who were going through similar struggles. My family entered family therapy and I started seeing a social worker along with my steady appointments with my psychiatrist. My EPI mental health team supported me and encouraged me and reminded me of their motto – ‘Recovery is Expected’. I saw that they truly cared and I wanted to prove them right.
Slowly but surely I got back to school, socializing and loving life again. The way I had been treated by the EPI team made such an impact, it made me want to get involved in the mental health field. A year after my relapse I had the idea to start a student mental health club at my school – Simon Fraser University. I also began sharing my experiences through various speaking engagements. This work was so meaningful to me and it felt so right to give back given that I had been helped so much by the EPI team. I had found a new passion, as scary as it was at first due to the stigma. I continued my studies, met some amazing people through volunteering and eventually graduated from EPI and SFU. I was the Valedictorian for my 2010 business class, it was quite the honour.
I had many options to work in the corporate world after graduating, but my heart was with mental health. The support and love I had received from my EPI team and others I had volunteered with had imbued a sense of duty to help others coming behind me. I am currently running my own business – Seal Wellness – doing Coaching, Consulting and Speaking related to mental health and wellness. I am also the F.O.R.C.E. Youth in Residence at the Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre at BC Children’s Hospital. This work provides me with great joy and fulfillment every day, and could not have been possible without the help, support, love and encouragement I received from my mental health team at EPI. They truly saved my life and do so for many youth. The program is innovative, flexible, holistic and of the highest quality. Not only are the systems in place to make it a great program, the people who work at EPI are top class who know what they’re doing, but also care about their clients. I am a huge supporter of EPI because I know I owe my current life to them. I have recently passed my 5-year mark of being relapse free and these past years have been some of the best of my life. For that, I thank EPI and encourage you to take full advantage of the program.
Brent, BBA ’10
Founder and President
FORCE Youth in Residence
Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre