Amanda Buckingham

In honour of International Women’s Day, Ontario Shores is proud to highlight a few of its extraordinary women who lead and inspire each day as they dedicate their careers to changing views on mental health and helping those impacted by mental illness.


Describe you career journey thus far? What led you to your current role?

My journey has definitely not been straightforward! I grew up as a dancer, and attended a three year musical theatre diploma program after high school. I was certain that this was the career for me, but after moving to Toronto and living as a starving artist for a couple of years, I realized that this was not the life that I wanted. My cousin (who is also a social worker) suggested that I go back to school for social work, because it still had to do with people, and emotions, and stories, just like theatre. The transition to this new career path was terrifying, but I couldn’t be happier about my current position.

Do you have a connection to mental health that you would like to share? or What attracted you to working in the area of mental health?
I struggled a lot with my own mental health, particularly in my early 20s. There were some amazing therapists and other mental health workers that helped me through, and I always had the intention to pay it forward. I have also been exposed to so many friends and family members who struggle, and I believe that human connection and compassion is critical.

What has prepared you the most for the role(s) you have had?
I had some really extensive training throughout my Master’s program at the University of Toronto, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). My supervisors were supportive, and also gave me honest feedback about my work, which was painful to hear sometimes, but so incredibly helpful. I also had the privilege of studying anti-oppressive practice at Ryerson University, which provided me with a completely different way of viewing mental health. This has helped me maintain a stance of complete non-judgment, and an understanding of how identity play such a huge part in peoples’ stories.    

What is the best piece of professional advice you have been given from a former leader, peer, or colleague?
My team is constantly reminding each other how important it is to take care of ourselves while we are doing this difficult work with patients. It’s so important to remember that we need to take care of ourselves, or we will surely burnout. We are people as well, and our work has an impact on our mental/emotional states, and that’s okay to admit out loud. 

How do you balance your roles and responsibilities, both at work and outside of work (for example family, volunteer roles, or personal commitments)?
I do my best to find a balance, but it definitely is a challenge. I really value time with my husband and my friends, and I try to go home at the end of the day and “leave work at work” so that I can be as present as possible. This is easier said than done!

What are your self-care strategies?
Self-care is an ongoing learning experience for me, but I’ve noticed that scheduling “me time” into my week is critical.

What drives you in your career/role?
Most of the patients I see at Ontario Shores are suffering immensely. I am driven by the desire to help them build a life that they see as worth living, as dictated by Marsha Linehan who created Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). Although it can be an extremely difficult job at times, it is an honour to walk beside people on their mental health journeys.

What advice would you give someone looking to start working in mental health/your area of work?
It has been critical for me to establish and maintain strong relationships and trust with my team members at Ontario Shores. I would definitely advise new clinicians to be there as much as possible for their team mates, as you will all be going through similar struggles every single day. I would not be able to do the work that I do without the support of my amazing colleagues.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself that I have the right to change my mind. In my early 20s, I was convinced that I was a failure when I realized that the life of a performer was not for me, however, I’ve been able to reframe my career change as a huge life accomplishment.

What is the best part about working at Ontario Shores?
People smile and say hi in the hallways! I’ve worked in other hospitals where this definitely doesn’t happen.

What/who is your biggest influence and why?
There are so many people who have influenced me throughout my life, but at work, I would definitely say that my patients are my biggest influence. They inspire me everyday with their strength and willingness to work so hard in therapy, even at a time when they feel hopeless. They motivate me to continue working as hard as I can to provide the most effective therapy possible.

Why is it important to recognize International Women’s Day?
International Women’s day is an opportunity to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. We also have to acknowledge that there is a long way to go in terms of equality when it comes to positions of power in our society.

In what ways can women continue to support each other and lift each other up?
Encourage each other to speak up,  take up space, and see each other as allies rather than competition.