#TheSherProject

It’s been a month since #TheSherProject released and I am still in disbelief.

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I still remember the day my childhood friend, Nickey, and her family came to visit me at Sunnybrook Hospital. I remember her dad telling me that he knew I would take this terrible traumatic experience and turn it into something beautiful. I remember doctors and nurses telling me it was a miracle I survived.

I have always believed that the reason I survived was so that I could share my story and help others who are struggling. I just never knew how. It was like this itch I needed to scratch but couldn’t reach.

I also worried that my words would do more harm than good. Unfortunately, my father/ abuser is part of the 1% of individuals with paranoid schizophrenia that act violently towards others (a myth the media tends to exploit regularly). As a mental health advocate, I worried that people would get the wrong idea, so I chose silence instead.

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But it didn’t feel right. I realized that I had the ability to end the stigma, as the daughter of a man with schizophrenia and a survivor of this incident. I needed to share my perspective:

My dad was a good man who loved me dearly. Unfortunately, due to his illness, he was on medication with terrible and isolating side-effects. He also lived with anxiety and depression. He couldn’t work and suffered in silence.

I’m not saying what he did wasn’t wrong, it was and he lives with the guilt every single day, but it was not his fault.

Society makes it difficult for individuals with mental illness to get the help they need. Instead, it pushes these individuals to develop negative coping strategies (i.e. self-medication and social isolation) and fear what others will think of them.

I too experienced the stigma associated with mental health, from myself and others. I know how dangerous the silence and fear of judgement can be. It was the stigma that kept me from acknowledging that I was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anorexia nervosa. It prevented me from seeking help and led me to suicidal thoughts and behaviours instead.

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Sharing my story has been incredibly healing. It was like a huge weight I’d been carrying for years had finally lifted. Looking back, I could never imagine having a blog and an active social media around my mental health story, let alone a short film. I know this story is far from finished, and I still have a lot more to share, but I am so grateful to those special individuals who believed in me and those who continue to encourage me today.

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If you have a story you want to share but don’t know how, send me a message. I still remember how terrifying my first post was and I know I couldn’t have done it alone.

And of course, a very special thank you to The Mental Health Spotlight and Think Brown Media for this incredible opportunity. If you would like to get involved with #TheSherProject, reach out to the Mental Health Spotlight for more details. And if you haven’t already, click below:

Love Always,

Ashna

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