May 05 2016
SSO volunteers across the province each have a connection to mental health and a personal reason why they want to give back. For Matthew, it was a deep urge to help people.
“I was working in mental health but I was interested in SSO because of its focus on family members of people living with schizophrenia and psychosis,” Matthew said. “Since October of last year I’ve been working as an intake worker with the Ask the Expert line, connecting people to resources and SSO counselors. It’s been rewarding to support people who are reaching out for help.”
In addition to being an intake worker in the Toronto office, Matthew also works with Purple Weber, SSO’s Early Intervention Family Worker, with co-facilitating Strengthening Families Together (SFT) sessions for University of Toronto students. “I was able to meet so many new people at SFT who were excited to be in a group setting talking about mental health for the first time,” he said. “I am facilitating another group with Purple this summer that I’m looking forward to. Speaking with young people about mental illness is empowering.”
Matthew has applied to graduate school in areas that will allow him to continue working in mental health. He hopes to work to end the stigma that keeps people silent and afraid to reach out for help. “Something that drew me to mental health was how strong the stigma is, however with awareness events like Mental Health Week and the Peace of Minds Walk, I believe attitudes are starting to change,” Matthew said. “People are starting to understand that mental illness isn’t a character flaw, it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain and perspectives are changing. The more we talk about it, the more people will start to open their minds.”
While Matthew has big dreams for his future, he has no plans in leaving his volunteer position at SSO anytime soon. “I enjoy my time here. I get along well with everyone in the office and the work that I do is rewarding and stimulating,” he said. “I think the best way for me to work to reduce stigma is not to just talk about it but to actually do something.”
Matthew gets loud by volunteering. How do you get loud?