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Opinion: If you struggle with mental health or addiction, ​​I see you and I hear you

'Having struggled with addiction and mental health issues since I was 17, I am well aware of the daily battles as well as the constant power that your 'demon(s)' have against you.'

Having struggled with addiction and mental health issues since I was 17, I am well aware of the daily battles as well as the constant power that your “demon(s)” have against you.

However, I also know the strength and courage it takes to have your voice heard.

It’s not easy, but then again, what is?

Once an addict, always an addict, right?

No, we are all human beings and deserve just as much respect as everyone else.

The community is broken, and I am here to be the voice for all those who have not been given a chance to be heard.

You are enough, and you DO matter.

I have been torn apart, told I “don’t matter,” and witnessed firsthand the “anxiety isn’t real; addiction is an excuse.”

First of all, addiction is not a choice. You don’t wake up in the morning and go, “today’s the day I’m going to become an addict.”

The system and the ones who are supposed to serve, protect and love you are the ones who break you down and make you question your existence.

We all deserve the same amount of respect.

We need to raise more mental health awareness. We need to help those who feel they cannot stand on their own two feet and guide them to their utopia where they find their strength, peace and, most importantly, their worth.

Mental health and addiction are not a joke, but the majority of people seem to turn a blind eye to those clearly struggling.

Addicts are labelled as “junkies,” “garbage,” and many other degrading, disrespectful names.

Let me tell you, having been labelled as all of the above did not give me the courage to ask for help. It made me dive deeper into addiction because I felt as though I didn’t matter.

Having bore witness to the judgmental people, including some with professional titles in this town, and hearing the whispers directed at the homeless, the ones returning bottles for profit or the ones selling their lives away on Facebook, it breaks my heart that a community so close-knit has the power to judge so quickly. Research states that not all psychotic episodes or psychosis states are caused by drug usage.

And, the judgemental among us should realize that not all homeless, bottle-returning folks are addicts. They are trying to survive in this world to actually afford their rent and groceries.

But even if they are addicts or struggling with mental health, who are you to judge?

We need to stand tall and use our voices to help those battling daily demons know that they are not alone. There is so much help out there, whether it’s support groups, intake appointments, meetings, the Overdose Prevention Site, Under One Roof, counselling, psychiatric evaluations, and so much more.

I have learned that I am not alone; that everyone has a story, but not all of us are brave enough to use our voices.

 I hear you, I see you, and you are worth it. The help is here, and if you cannot use your own voice because the system has beaten you down, let me be your voice; let’s make a difference. Let’s change the world, and let’s stand tall and promote more mental health awareness!

Amanda Mead is a Squamish resident and mental health advocate.