Student stories

BCom co-op student a voice for mental illness in the community

Angela Yu

United Way Greater Victoria

“I knew I wanted to connect with, and make a difference in my community,” says business co-operative education (co-op) student Angela Yu. “But I didn’t expect that I would be so involved.”

Angela spent her last co-op term working with United Way as a fundraiser, connecting with people and businesses all over Greater Victoria. United Way is a non-profit that raises funding for social services in the community, and one of Angela’s main roles was speaking to workplaces about the need for these programs.

“As a student, I was just seeing one side of the world,” she says. “But going out in the community, I’ve met so many people. Going from engaging with people just finishing work at 6 in the morning, to meeting others working in a corporate bank office, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with such a diverse workforce. It’s been eye-opening.”

But the strongest highlight of her work term, says Angela, has been sharing her own personal experiences with mental illness with the people she’s met. Over the past year, Angela has had three friends commit suicide and a fourth confide in her about a failed attempt.

“I never thought that I’d be sharing such a personal part of myself, something that was so uncomfortable at first,” she says. “But it’s much more impactful when it’s a personal story.”

Angela’s fundraising efforts will support mental health programs like bc211, a community- and social-services hotline. She also hopes that sharing her experiences has sparked conversation and helped people open up about mental illness.

“With my parents’ generation, it’s sometimes difficult because depression is something that isn’t really spoken about, and often their children are too embarrassed to talk to them because they feel like they’re not going to take it seriously.”

Depression, she says, needs to be spoken about to remove the stigma around it, as many victims see it as a personal flaw rather than an illness.

“My friend… I asked her how she felt a year ago, when she tried to take her own life,” says Angela. “She said she remembers it like it was a dream. That it was so intense at that moment, but because she’s better now, she can’t even relate anymore.”

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You can read Angela’s story about her experiences with mental illness at uwgv.ca/four-moments-angelas-story/.

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