My journey as a mental health advocate began with writing. Over the summer of 2013, I wrote my story down as a way of working through the tangled web that was my life at the time. Then, I returned to an old hobby of mine – blogging.
I started off on tumblr with Bird & Cage, and over time I’ve grown more and more open and honest, talking about my personal relationships and even my recent experience with Vulvar Vestibulitis Syndrome (long story). Why? I don’t really know.
All I know is that there is something so satisfying about being honest in public. I’ve always been very in tune with my feelings and honest with myself, but not necessarily honest with the world. I’ve never pretended to be someone that I’m not, I just stayed quiet. I tried very hard to be nobody, essentially, because I figured that no one wanted to know who I really was. It was better to just blend in.
Well, I’m pretty sure that anyone who follows me on tumblr now knows more about my life than my own parents do. Blogging has made me someone again, for better or for worse. I feel like I started existing as of September 2013.
Sharing my story (whether anyone was listening or not) has helped me so much that I have sort of made it my life goal to help other people share theirs too.
In my fourth year of university, I joined a group called Active Minds at UofT, and I started running events called SPEAK OUT. These events featured students sharing their stories of their lived experiences with mental illness through speeches, music, comedy, poetry, and more.
This is SPEAK OUT in blog form.
I’ve had the idea for this blog for a year but I knew that I didn’t have time for it while I was still in school. But I’ve graduated now and have all the time in the world, so this is my new project.
If you’re at the University of Toronto or just in the Toronto area, I highly encourage you to go to the events that Active Minds at UofT will be holding during the upcoming year. But of course, those are not accessible to everyone for various reasons, not least of which is location.
The Internet is global. I wanted SPEAK OUT to become bigger than just my university or even just one city. I also wanted to expand the concept of SPEAK OUT to issues beyond mental illness.
And although it is digital, I still want to foster a sense of community. The ‘comment’ feature on websites exists for a reason, but it is so rarely used to its potential – either not at all, or inappropriately. I want to see comments on SPEAK OUT. I want to see people having conversations. I want to see people learning from one another. I hope that this blog is able to accomplish that.
If you want to write for us, that would be awesome! Head over to our How to Contribute page.
You can subscribe to the blog via email or through WordPress if you already have a WordPress account (links in the sidebar to your right).
Thank you for checking out the site and I hope you stick around!
***I would like to thank my friends Charlotte Rauchberger and Matthew McLaren for their help in designing this website. Matthew helped with the initial web design and taught me how to buy a domain name. Charlotte spent hours with me designing our logo and social media graphics. Without you guys this all would have taken a lot longer!***
Chelsea Ricchio is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the SPEAK OUT blog. She is also the Communications Manager for Healthy Minds Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2015 with a BA in English Literature and Book & Media Studies. She was the former president of the student group Active Minds at UofT, which hosts SPEAK OUT events on campus (from which this blog takes its name). She was diagnosed with Dysthymia and Social Anxiety. She is 22 and lives in Toronto with her cat Genie and her roommate.