Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) is an annual national public education campaign designed to help Canadians across the country understand the reality of mental illness. The goal of the week is to build on the journey towards ensuring all Canadians who need mental health resources can access them without barriers.
At Sobeys Inc., we're committed to supporting your mental wellbeing and providing the tools, resources and support you need. As part of this journey to have more open and honest conservations about mental health, we chatted with Keith Lyon – Parcel Pickup at Sobeys Brookside Mall in Fredericton, New Brunswick – about his story of living with schizophrenia and the impact it's had on his life. Keith was also recently selected as one of the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health's Faces of Mental Health. Learn more about this incredible honour.
What inspired you to share your story for Mental Illness Awareness Week?
Whether you live in Canada or somewhere else, mental illness awareness shouldn't be limited to a single day, month or week. This is a topic that's long overdue, and the pandemic has provided us with the perfect opportunity to have more of these conversations about mental health across the country. We've all been impacted – we all have good days and bad days. And so many of us struggle with our own mental health completely alone.
I am so proud to share my story today, and hopefully provide teammates a deeper understanding of what living with a mental illness entails.
You've been recognized as a face of mental health by the Canadian Alliance of Mental Illness and Mental Health. What is your story?
If there's a misconception I'd love to address today, it's that everyone with a mental illness has a terrible childhood, some sort of family trauma, or has been mistreated or abused at some point. While this is the reality for some, it isn't the case for me. I grew up in a supportive family. About 15 years ago, I started hearing voices saying I wasn't any good, that I should hurt myself, that nobody would miss me. It came to a head when my landlord found me in my apartment screaming and my best friend came over and convinced me it was time to get help. It was time to get the support I needed. I hit rock bottom during a 10-year period where I was in and out of hospital, including a full year stint at one point. I was handcuffed, shackled, tazed, and hauled into the ER by the police.
Can you share what type of support you received?
The first step is recognizing that you need support and identifying the signs that tell you getting support is helpful and you don't have to go through it alone. My family and friends were so supportive; they helped get me into treatment. The last in-person treatment I received was at Centracare psychiatric hospital in Saint John, New Brunswick – and it changed my life. I learned valuable life skills that have led me to where I am today. Once I left Centracare, I volunteered at a camp. Over the course of a few months, my family and friends mentioned they thought I was ready to work again. They gave me the confidence I needed, and I knew I was ready.
Is this how you ended up working at Sobeys?
It is. I applied to many places, but no employer was willing to give me an opportunity. Finally, Sobeys gave me the chance I needed. I got an opportunity to do parcel pickup at Sobeys Brookside Mall! I've been here for three years and I love being able to serve the community in Fredericton. I'm also working on publishing my sixth children's book, and I've given more than 30 talks about mental health to students, youth groups, nurses and others in the local community.
If you were to provide some advice to other teammates about mental wellbeing, what would it be?
If you're experiencing a mental illness, or know someone who is, don't ignore it. Seek support for yourself or start a conversation with the person in need of help. You don't need to be able to fix the problem, but you can listen and help them look for the right support or resource. If you hit rock bottom, remember that you can come back from it. There's hope and I'm living proof of it.
Huge thanks to Keith for sharing his story to raise awareness of Mental Illness Awareness Week.
For more information or resources, see below:
- EFAP (Employee Family Assistance Program):
- Morneau Shepell – www.workhealthlife.com
- English: 1.844.880.9142
- French: 1.844.880.9143
- TeleTYpe: 1.877.338.0275
- Morneau Shepell – www.workhealthlife.com
- Virtual Care
- Dialogue – https://app.dialogue.co/
- Click Get Started. You'll need your Employee ID to register.
- For teammates enrolled in the YouFlex health plan.
- Psychological Benefits Coverage
- $2000 annually to teammates enrolled in the YouFlex health plan.
Visit SobeysMentalWellbeing.com to learn more about mental wellbeing and to access the support information and resources available to you.
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