Recent grad shares his story to reduce stigma around mental health

With Suicide Awareness Day coming up on Wednesday, January 29, we spoke with recent UBC grad, Josh Beharry, who has been an advocate for reducing stigma around mental health since co-founding the UBC Mental Health Network. He has just launched a website to share his own first-person perspectives, Mental Health Point of View (MHPOV), which features a series of essays that trace Josh’s path living with suicidal thoughts, recovering from depression, and speaking out against stigma and stereotypes.

What drives you to share your story and start conversations about mental health?

“Since early 2011, I have made volunteering and advocating for mental health a primary focus of my life. From facilitating a peer-support group and public speaking to interviews and published articles, I share my story to help others learn about depression and mental illness.

Sharing my first hand experiences, with anxiety, depression and attempted suicide, helps me connect with others on a more personal level and provides them with insight into what living with a mental illness is really like. Every time I start a conversation around mental health it helps reduce the stigma attached to it. I’ve been through some pretty difficult times and sharing my experiences on MHPOV has helped to provide me a means to turn my experiences into something positive – a voice to help others.”

Tell us more about what the UBC Mental Health Network has to offer.

“Initially the group was set up to help connect mental health related groups on campus and engage them with other student faculties and clubs. Today, MHN has direct contact with the VP Students, and Directors of both Counselling Services and Student Health. MHN not only helps to raise awareness for mental health on campus but provides students with a direct conversation to those in involved at the staff level who are capable of influencing UBC policy and services concerning mental health. “

How can the UBC Mental Health Network help students who want to reach out for help? How can students show their support for the mental health movement around campus?

“Take a look at MHN’s site and their network members. There are tons of groups involved now and many ways to help raise awareness for mental health on campus. If you’re looking for support, make an appointment with Counseling Services or try going to the Kaleidoscope (a peer-run mental health support group on campus).”

Lastly, how can students keep in touch with and/or show support for MHPOV?

“Check out mhpov.com and read my story. I have Facebook and Twitter accounts set up to let you know about new posts. Feel free to share the site with friends or family. I’ve put a lot of work into the site and sharing my experiences but I can only reach out so far without your support. I need my audience to share my story with others so we can increase everyone’s understanding of mental health and finally get rid of the stigma attached to it.”

Wednesday, January 29 is Suicide Awareness Day at UBC. Show your support by wearing orange and visiting interactive information booths set up across campus.

Learn more about how to prevent suicide at the UBC Thrive website.

Read Josh’s story and visit Mental Health Point of View.

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