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  • Jan25Wed

    Let's Talk!

    Mental illness out in the open January 25, 2017 by Victoria Bissell, Director of Training
    Filed Under:
    Vulnerable Sector

    Hi everyone, my name is Victoria and I’m the director of training at Plan to Protect®. I’ve been working for Plan to Protect® for the past 3 years and have been overseeing all of our online, LIVE webinar and onsite training.

    Today, I really wanted to open up and share a little bit more about myself.  Social media gives you a window into someone’s life. You can spend so much time listening to someone, hearing about their life or seeing photos of them that you think you know them. Feel like you’re friends.

    But…social networking sites are a curated glimpse at someone’s life. It’s a small piece of the puzzle that makes up the whole.

    Perhaps you’ve heard me on our webinars; or chatted with me over the phone or via email; or maybe we’ve even met at exhibit or conference. You probably would have no idea that I really struggle with an anxiety disorder.

    January 25th is a day to chat about Mental Health, so I thought… well I should speak about mine. About 7-8 years ago I was diagnosed with Agoraphobia – a social anxiety disorder. I struggle with large crowds, unfamiliar public places and attention.  

    Even though it was recently diagnosed, it’s been something I’ve been struggling with since high school. I use to have 3-4 panic attacks a week –sometimes multiple times a day. I was afraid of leaving the house… afraid of people… afraid to go anywhere or do anything. I was imprisoned by severe anxiety disorder and it was taking over my life and I couldn’t hide it anymore. Some days were so hard, I couldn’t even get out of bed or I’d spend a week inside my apartment unable to leave.

    Finally, I reached out and asked for help. I started seeing a counsellor in University and eventually a clinical professional who diagnosed my anxiety as Agoraphobia. Giving my fears a voice and a name was the beginning of a journey towards hope, healing and coping mechanisms. I received treatment, support and help. My faith has actually made a huge impact as well. The more time I spend with the Lord and the more time I spend in the Bible the easier it is for me to face the world.

    I still struggle with severe anxiety and some days are worse than others… but I can confidently say I’ve only had 2 panic attacks in almost 5 years. And it’s not because I haven’t left my house – I have. I travelled for a year and a half with the African Children’s Choir throughout Canada, the US and the UK living in a different home almost every other day. And for the past 3 years, I’ve been the Director of Training travelling, teaching and speaking about Plan to Protect®. And for the past 2 years, I’ve put myself out there on YouTube and social media sharing my scrapbooking.  Eight years ago, when I was living in my apartment alone, afraid, and unable to speak about my severe anxiety, I never would have imagined I’d be capable of doing these things – my world was shrinking and my anxiety and panic attacks were taking over my life.

    I truly believe we need to shatter the wall of silence; we need to let those with mental health challenges know that they are not alone and we need to break the stigma. People with mental health disorders are people and they need a voice!  

    Children, youth and adults suffering with mental health disorders whether it’s anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, substance abuse, bipolar personality disorders or even Agoraphobia like me, are extremely vulnerable. They are often suffering in silence and in extreme isolation – which increases risk. They may struggle with depression, suicide, self-injury and they are vulnerable to abuse, harassment and even discrimination.

    Do you have a Plan to Protect® those with mental health concerns? Are your volunteers and staff trained to prevent abuse and support those who are vulnerable? Would you know how to respond if someone was struggling with depression, suicide or self-injury?

    Let’s Talk! If you’re struggling with mental health disorders, like me, reach out… ask for help…and break the silence. If you’re an organization working with the vulnerable sector, reach out…be educated… have a plan… and break the silence. Together if we speak up we will break the wall of silence and stand up to the stigma.

    If you need help with policies, we can help! If you’re looking for training on Suicide, Self-Injury and Cutting, check out our online school. But most importantly, let’s talk – because when we talk, we stand up to stigma.


    On Thursday, February 2, 2017, Paulette MacRae said:

    Hi Victoria! Thank you for opening us up to your story and how you found ways to get what you needed! I am inspired by what you wrote and by how you have moved from isolation into wonderful life experiences! I get what your saying about some days being more difficult than others. That is true of all of us. Glory to God for the help, love and courage you have found! Thank you!


    On Wednesday, February 1, 2017, judi smeltzer said:

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. It is very important to talk about this - not just at this time of year. Thanks for the tools available through Plan to Protect.


    On Wednesday, February 1, 2017, Marie Poulin said:

    Thank you so very much for sharing your story. So very proud of you and the courage it took to talk about your mental health challenges!!!


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