Self-harming became a regular part of Samantha’s life. She was cutting her arms and legs with a razor blade. Her weight was fluctuating because she was anorexic. Life was in serious jeopardy for this Hamilton teenager.
“I was suffering with mental health issues at the end of Grade 8 as I was going into high school,” recalls Samantha. “The self-harming and eating disorder were coping mechanisms for depression. Sometimes my depression would involve severe mood swings and I’d bounce between being mad, sad and happy. Other times I would feel completely numb and it was difficult to get out of bed and do anything.”
Samantha’s parents took her to McMaster Children’s Hospital, where the Child and Youth Mental Health Program became a guiding force in her life. She began regular therapy sessions with Dr. Sarah Watkins.
“Dr. Watkins is an amazing person,” she says. “We made a strong connection right away and I’ve been seeing her for four years. She has taught me many coping strategies. I’ve also learned useful life skills in group therapy sessions.”
Samantha has received both inpatient and outpatient care through the program at McMaster Children’s Hospital and Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre.
“I’ve experienced suicidal thoughts, which is why I was admitted to the inpatient unit several times. Being an inpatient means you’re living in the hospital with 24-hour support from the staff. Even in the middle of the night, someone was always there to help you.”
Grateful for the care she received and the skills she learned, Samantha encourages people who are struggling with mental illness to seek professional help.
“I want to help break down the stigma associated with mental illness. It makes people feel ashamed. As a result, they’re not willing to get help and they won’t get better. People with mental illness should know that they’re never alone.”
Samantha is currently studying child and youth care at college and she is planning for a career that involves helping others who struggle with mental illness.
“The Child and Youth Mental Health program has changed my life,” she says. “I still experience ups and downs, but I’m feeling much better overall now that I have the skills to get through those hard moments. I want to help other young people who are going through difficult times. I want to make a difference. I’m excited about my life and I want to accomplish so many things.”
The Foundation is raising funds to transform an unused outdoor space at McMaster Children’s Hospital into a therapeutic courtyard for use by inpatients in the Child and Youth Mental Health Program. The new Child and Youth Mental Health Wellness Courtyard will provide a secure, peaceful and healing environment where they can enjoy fresh air and sunshine during their inpatient stay.