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Personal Stories


From the outside, those who knew Jackie saw her as accomplished and successful. She had worked hard in school, had a stable career, and a family. But underneath it all, she was working hard to keep everything together and was hanging on by a thread.

“I had struggled with mental health and addiction difficulties throughout my entire life,” she said. ”Often this struggle was in silence because it’s so hard to access that kind of help because of stigma.”

What proved most difficult along her journey was finding the right treatment. For almost 30 years, Jackie was treated mostly through community agencies and private therapists for. Despite the support she was receiving, her addiction and mental health issues were impacting nearly all areas of her life. Jackie was being treated for a diagnosis that, while listed in the DSM, many psychiatrists and therapists have moved away from.

“Despite years of therapy, I remained in a pattern of avoiding difficult feelings and memories,” Jackie says. “It left me ill prepared to cope with stressors and this led to an increase reliance on my addiction to manage.”

Unfortunately, things reached a crisis point on Christmas Day several years ago, and she ended up being admitted to the in-patient psychiatric unit at JBH. While things had really unraveled and it was a very painful time, it was actually a blessing in disguise.

“The admission was very brief and life changing for me,” says Jackie. “My consult with the psychiatrist on the unit was the first time my previous diagnosis was challenged and was the start of a very different journey.”

The admission resulted in a referral to the PHAST program which then led to the DBT program in Community Mental Health, which Jackie credits with saving her life.

Undoing 30 years of therapy has not been an easy process. There was comfort in the previous type of therapy she had received and close connection with the people who had tried so hard to help her for many years. At the same time, she could see it wasn’t getting her the results she wanted. Jackie realized she was not getting where she needed to be and made the difficult switch. For the first time, her addiction and mental health needs would be met by one person in one program through one set of skills.

“Through this program, I have learned healthy ways to cope with extreme anxiety by learning skills that help me to manage emotions and prevent the escalation of them,” Jackie says. “I have set goals and has slowly been working to re-build my life.”

One of the components of the DBT program is to re-engage with something in the community whether it be work, volunteering, or school. Jackie has done a bit of all of this. She is involved in a community food program where she gets to draw from her previous experience when she used to work in street ministry. She has returned to supply preaching after an extended absence. She has also joined the Walk to the Lighthouse Committee raises funds and awareness for Mental Health and Addiction Services at JBH.

When Jackie first joined the committee, she was worried about participating in something that was so publicly connected to mental health. She then realized how freeing it was to be open about her experiences and to be able to share her journey.

“I hope that by sharing my story, others will know they are not alone and be more comfortable to seek the help and support they need,” she says.

Jackie’s journey has been intense and full of hard work to change long standing patterns and to understand her issues and treatment through a very different lens.  

“The path is not linear and it sometimes feels like a few steps forward and then back, but overall, I continue to move forward,” she says. “The work is both exhausting and rewarding but with determination, rebuilding my life is now obtainable.”


For Sasha, the Mental Health & Addictions program at Joseph Brant Hospital has been a life-saver.

After she received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder at 18, Sasha struggled with taking her medication, especially when she was younger. But thanks to the care of the team at JBH, especially the inpatient unit, Sasha has a better hold on her illness.

“I’ve had this illness for more than 30 years. I’ve got a hold on it now, but you don’t always,” she said. “The team at JBH have been wonderful to me – they actually saved my life.”

For Sasha, artistic expression has always been an outlet and a form of self-care. One of her paintings depicts a shark in a living room, which she says is her representation of mania.

While she’s received incredible care during her time at JBH, Sasha strongly believes that the Mental Health & Addictions programs needs to be expanded. She is the co-founder of Artrageous, a fundraiser in partnership with the Art Gallery of Burlington, dedicated to raising much-needed funds.

“Being a part of Artrageous has been amazing, and has been part of my recovery,” she says. “I think the whole community of Burlington should get behind mental health.”

For Sasha, sharing her story is about eliminating the stigma of mental illness, and inviting those that need support to ask for it.

“It’s important to get help and have access to help. Joseph Brant Hospital being there for me saved me life.”

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