I have a lot of stories, but from reading the ones others have shared, and knowing I only have 800 words, I chose this one.

I grappled with denial that I had mental health problems for a long time. It was a scary thing to face up to, and the stigma was so intense and negative. The family situation was complicated, and unsupportive as well as negative at the time. If I admitted I had a problem, there would be a whole lot of time sacrificed from school into fixing things. I just wanted to finish school and get out as fast as possible, because the situation there wasn't good either. I figured everyone struggled the same as me, and I just needed to figure out how to rise above it.

Eventually things got bad enough that I changed schools and downgraded my courses for a fifth year to finish. Getting sick with a Clostridium Difficile infection for 3 months and managing another chronic illness played into things too, but if my mental health was good, those shouldn't have held me back so much.

I hit rock bottom quite a few times at the previous school and this one. Finally in second semester, I met a great group of friends. We somehow gravitated towards each other, this force knowing we knew of a similar struggle. They opened up about their own struggles with mental health. Some grappled with suicide attempts, and all seemed to grapple with depression and anxiety. They sought help and were on the road to recovery.

I had never encountered such a supportive, welcoming and encouraging atmosphere before. I almost felt with this group that I could do anything. It encouraged me to open up, face my own demons, and finally admit there was a problem, and that I needed to seek help.

I finally did, and it's a long hard journey that continues to this day. It took a long time to figure out I have bipolar disorder type II, and there might also be some other illnesses expressed to a lesser degree. I'm still trying to seek proper treatment a progress, but it's a slow journey.

If it had not been for those friends though, I can't say I would have been able to summon the courage to seek help, let alone if I would still be here today. I owe them a great debt and much gratitude. I hope everyone who reads this story can be that (or those) friend(s) for someone else, to start them on the road to recovery. Show compassion, understanding and support and make someone's world a little brighter and hopeful. I know I've tried to be the same for others, and it's a great feeling.

Anil (Toronto)