January 22, 2019 8:08 pm
Updated: January 22, 2019 9:42 pm

Vernon man shares his mental-health struggles in hopes of helping north Okanagan youth

Watch: As a teen, Ryan Godard turned to drugs and alcohol to manage his mental illness. Now he hopes sharing his story will help teens today cope better.

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Ryan Godard will be sharing his personal struggle with substance use and mental illness as part of upcoming forums on youth substance use in the north Okanagan.

The Vernon resident hopes sharing his story will help the next generation of young people.

READ MORE: CMHA Kelowna hands out mentally healthy workplace awards

“I started noticing mental-health issues when I was 14,” explained Godard.

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“That was the early ’90s. The stigma surrounding mental-health issues was quite severe.”

As a young teen, scared to tell his parents or doctors, Godard dealt with the depression, anxiety and mania he was experiencing alone.

READ MORE: Kelowna teen honoured for mental health advocacy

“Instead of reaching out for help, I turned to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, curb the highs and the lows,” Godard explained.

Godard said he abused substances for years in his youth and when he got sober at the age of 23, his untreated mental-health issues returned.

He said he was finally diagnosed at the age of 24 after he was taken to hospital from work because he was hallucinating.

“I had zero treatment until 24 because… I was scared because of the stigmas surrounding mental health and mental illness,” Godard said.

READ MORE: Okanagan teen’s royal conversation about mental health

Godard believes growing up with OCD, bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder might have been easier if he’d asked for help.

“I think if I had the proper treatment and not abusing drugs and alcohol, I might not have attempted suicide at age 18,” Godard said.

“I think getting treatment at an earlier age would have definitely helped myself in not suffering as long as I did.”

The father of two hopes the next generation can learn from the challenges he faced.

Godard will be sharing his story as one part of the forums on youth substance abuse the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has organized in the north Okanagan.

The organizations hope the events will help youth and their families learn about what resources are available for youth mental health and substance use.

READ MORE: New clinic in Kelowna for mental health patients

“Many that have mental-health challenges, also have substance-abuse problems,” explained Naaz Grewal, a community educator with the CMHA.

The CMHA said the events will also be a chance for parents, those who work with youth and young people themselves, to make suggestions.

“[Are] there resources that just aren’t available that need to be available and we don’t know about them? Tell us so that we can somehow hopefully change that world for the youth here,” said Grewal.

The hope is that armed with the knowledge that help is available, young people growing up in the north Okanagan will have an easier time than Godard did just a few decades ago.

Forum information:

– Jan. 23, 2019, in Vernon at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
– Feb. 12, 2019, in Armstrong at the Centennial Hall from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
– March 12, 2019, in Lumby at the Whitevalley Community Centre from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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