Shelley Marshall has complex post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental illness she lives with every day. But Marshall is using her disorder to help others with similar struggles by welcoming them into her home as part of the Mental Wellness Loft.
When Marshall was just seven years old her father committed suicide.
“I have worked really hard over the last 14 years after a suicide attempt that was really awful. I decided because I lived that I was not going to continue the family history of not taking care of ourselves.”
Marshall said she often experienced difficulties with clinical counselling.
“I lasted two sessions and said this is more traumatizing than anything I have ever been through,” she said.
“There are ways to heal, and it’s not always medication and it’s not always going to see a doctor. It’s seeing people who are living with the same struggles that you have and then we begin to laugh about it.”
Every Tuesday and Thursday, between 2 and 6 p.m., Marshall opens the door to her Leslieville loft to friends and those wanting to socialize.
“These beautiful people become my friends instantly. There’s this connection and energy in here,” said Marshall.
“It’s a safe and authentic place. There is vulnerability here and we trust each other. There are safe places for people to go.”
In addition to providing snacks and food, Marshall also plans activities for people who visit her home.
“I always have a new artist to teach us. Today we are doing pastels. Last week we did painting. I have musicians come in and that always changes.”
Laurelann Prociuk has clinical depression and she visited Marshall’s home on Tuesday.
“I’m not inclined to group situations. I’m not terribly artistic, but coming to see people and give hugs when it’s needed play… This is fabulous,” she said.