Since her youth, Shannah has been faced with challenges in her mental health. Between the ages of 18 to 22, Shannah had been in and out of hospitals due to her illnesses. She was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and at age 26 she received a diagnosis for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a mental illness that affects how a patient sees themselves and others. Approaching the 2020 Christmas season, Shannah began to experience depression along with suicide ideation, and thoughts about no longer wanting to be on this Earth. She was admitted to Lakeridge Health three times in the week before Christmas. On December 28, a Lakeridge Health psychiatrist referred Shannah to Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences, and within hours, Shannah had been admitted to the Complex General Psychiatry unit (CPG).
At this stage, Shannah was still very ill, and she wanted nothing to do with recovery. Admitting that this was not her “finest moment” — Shannah refused medication and was not interested in therapy. This eventually resulted in her transfer to the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICA); A five bed unit that specialized on one-on-one care. The unit is equipped with cameras, and is supported by nurses close by at all times. While on the PICA unit, Shannah underwent seventeen sessions of Electro Convulsion Therapy (ECT), with session scheduled every other day. Initially, Shannah felt no immediate improvement, however by the end of her ECT treatment, she was no longer combating suicidal thoughts, and began to engage in her self-care. This marked a pivotal turning point in her journey to recovery. After being granted permission to return to the main CPG unit, Shannah began to engage in activities that included outings, various therapeutic sessions, and socialization with her peers.
"I found ECT to be incredibly beneficial.” Says Shannah, “The personalized, one-on-one care allowed me to really open up and discuss my emotions without fear of judgment. It provided me with a safe space to be myself, completely transparent and unreserved." Shannah remained on the CGP for six months, and was discharged in May 2021. With a new rescue dog, and her niece awaiting her arrival, she was excited to be returning home. While settling into normal life once again, Shannah also rekindled her passion for horseback riding, which she has been doing since she was five years-old.
“Once I was discharged, I had a plan to start the Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) program at Ontario Shores.” Shannah hopefully explains, “I felt ready. My suicidal ideations were gone, I was happier and taking my medication consistently.”
Just a week after being discharged, Shannah committed to completing the six-month BPD outpatient clinic at Ontario Shores. She describes the experience as intensive, involving dedicated efforts and engagement in numerous modules. The modules focused on emotional regulation, coping strategies, and the exploration of a personalized ‘recipe for wellness.” All strategies that Shannah would be able to apply to the real world, to improve her coping with her mental health illnesses. Her regular participation comprised of both one-on-one counselling, and group sessions, each occurring weekly.
Approaching the end of the program, Shannah was very excited to graduate from the BPD clinic. Throughout her journey, she had grappled with issues related to structure and punctuality, but her time in this program marked a pivotal turning point. She looked forward to the sessions, actively engaged in homework assignments, and became increasingly involved in group sessions. By the end of the program, she had a great sense of well-being and wholeness. She returned to Durham College to complete her nursing degree. Recently, Shannah finished her final nursing placement at Ontario Shores and has successfully graduated as a Registered Practical Nurse. She has also accepted a position at Southlake Hospital, where she will be working in palliative cancer care. However, her long-term goal is to transition into mental health nursing. She believes that her personal lived experience, coupled with her nursing expertise, will have a profound impact on those struggling with their mental health.
“Honestly, when I think back on everything I’ve been through, Ontario Shores changed my life. I felt utterly hopeless, like a challenging case that nobody wanted to address.” Says Shannah, “At first, it was difficult to recognize the fact that they genuinely cared and were committed to helping me recover. However, once I fully embraced their support, it became a turning point that significantly altered my life for the better.”
In January of 2023, Shannah took part in the Recovery College program at Ontario Shores. During this experience, she was reunited with one of her favourite nurses, Sue Hie. Sue led the ‘My Story, My Voice’ series, which Shannah found valuable for her personal growth and self-discovery. It not only helped her learn about who she was, but it also encouraged her to open up and share her thoughts and experiences within the group. She is now eager to participate in another series so she can contribute to Voices Against Stigma Everywhere (VASE) program, where individuals share their stories to combat stigma and inspire others.
“When it comes to recovery, it’s not a linear process and it’s something you have to work on.” Shannah shares, “But it is so worth it.”
These are the faces of Ontario Shores. They are women just like Shannah, who made the brave decision to seek recovery, and change her life for the better.
No one can deny that the need for mental health care is greater than ever. Please give today and help change the face of mental health at Ontario Shores and beyond.