In celebration of last week’s Mental Health Awareness Week here at Ryerson, two of our very own Social Work students have the compassion, drive and dedication to pursue their career in the mental health field.
Nicholas Carveth is a third year Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) student. He has personally struggled with cocaine addiction in the past, and highlights the fact that mental health can refer to a number of issues, not just extreme cases like addiction. “Nail biting is actually being considered as a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD),” says Carveth.
There are a lot of stigmas attached to mental health and the kinds of people that are associated with the term ‘mentally ill’. “People who are considered mentally ill are considered violent and dangerous; when in fact, statistics indicate that someone with a mental health problem is much more likely to be a victim of violence,” says Carveth.
Another stigma attached to people suffering with mental illness is that they are impoverished, typically living on the streets, and have no family support. For Carveth however, it was simply to get over personal fears. “In many ways it was self-medication for social anxiety disorder. It was a way of maintaining some confidence; going into classroom settings made me nervous.”
Carveth eventually found himself at the Canadian Association for Mental Health (CAMH), where he underwent rehabilitation for his addiction.
Now in his third year of the BSW program, Carveth commends Ryerson for accommodating students of all backgrounds and personal struggle. “It has created a lot of meaning in my life that wasn’t there.”
Carveth now volunteers his time at CAMH and hopes to be a prominent voice in the advocacy for mental health awareness.
Alexandra Alaggia is also a BSW student. She too suffered from addiction in her teens and believes that there needs to be more resources out there to help people suffering from addiction into recovery. For Alaggia, coming out of her addiction was the hardest part; simply because “the drugs were more accessible” than actual resources.
Today, the second year BSW student advocates for mental health awareness, and recognizing minor symptoms that could potentially lead to something more serious.
Alaggia says Ryerson’s Mental Health Awareness Week was a great start to bringing attention to the importance of mental health and its surrounding factors. “We start talking about it and it breaks down those barriers; it breaks down that stigma and we’re better to understand.”