Written by Hayley Merchant and Keltyn Marshall. Reposted with permission.
22-year-old Jillian Nicole is working to empower Canada’s youth by educating them about mental health awareness and bipolar disorder.
Jillian had always felt like something was different about her from a very young age, and after years of uncertainty she was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in January 2012.
According to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, bipolar disorder is a condition in which one’s mood quickly switches between stages of enthusiasm and depression.
Doctors thought that the death of Jillian’s Aunt 10 years ago might be what triggered her mental illness.
“I was stoked when I was first diagnosed because I always kind of knew there was something wrong with me, but I didn’t know what it was,” Jillian said. “Finally being diagnosed meant that I wasn’t just crazy.”
The stigma attached to mental health prevented her from being able to receive life insurance. According to Jillian, the insurance company stated that due to her Bipolar disorder the likelihood of her hurting herself or others was too high for them to consider her application.
After changing her major multiple times, Jillian is one semester away from completing her degree in Educational Psychology. She plans on using her education, mental health experience and photography skills to educate youth about mental health awareness in a positive way.
“I want to give kids the opportunity and the bravery to say, yes, I might be different but that doesn’t make me any less awesome,” Jillian said.
Jillian believes in starting a positive conversation about mental health awareness, so she got involved with Partners for Mental Health’s Not Myself Today Campaign.
She said that her enthusiasm about the project led to her position as a correspondent for Partners for Mental Health. The organization promotes a positive outlook on mental health and strives to end the mental health stigma.
The website provides opportunities for those with and without mental health issues to learn about how common they are amongst Canadians. Visitors can sign a pledge promising to pay more attention to mental health issues, they can learn about volunteer opportunities and are able to share their stories as well as watch videos submitted by those affected by mental health disorders to gain perspective.
The main goal of the website is to raise awareness and let those who are struggling with mental health know that they are not alone in their battle.
View Jillian’s video testimony here.
In September 2012 Jillian founded the Choose Good Project, which is a blog that promotes positive thinking with a focus on mental health.
The blog features her story as well as accounts from others and includes her family members struggles with mental illness. Jillian created the blog to promote a positive attitude towards Bipolar Disorder and how to make the best out of it.
“People have this pre-conceived idea of what those with mental illnesses look like. I want to show that they are normal everyday people – they are students, teachers and doctors, not just the stereotypes we see on T.V,” Jillian said.
Greatly inspired by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, Jillian models her life around his notion that we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to the situations.
Jillian chooses to react to her disorder by making the best of it, and using her illness to inspire and educate others. She wants to reach out and show other people who suffer from mental illness that they are not alone.
Jillian aims to keep the conversation going, and keep it going in a positive way.
“Yeah mental illness sucks but we can live with it,” Jillian said.
When asked if she sees a cure in the future, she calmly said that there is not enough knowledge surrounding Bipolar Disorder for there to be a cure in her lifetime, but she is very optimistic in that anything is possible.
Jillian hopes that by sharing her story and getting involved that people will realize that mental illness is a lot more widespread than they think it is.
Although mental illness affects people’s lives in many ways, Jillian insists that this should not mean that they can’t live awesome lives.