Hi Blog Readers!

I will start off my introducing myself, my name is Alicia Raimundo, and I am 20 something Canadian who has been a Mental Health Superhero since the age of 13. I have been fortunate enough to do some really cool things along the way like speaking at two TEDx Conferences, Speaking at World Youth Day at the UN headquarters (more people came to see me than Canada’s Prime Minister Harper!), publish (April 2015) a memoir on my story that will be used in Grade 8 classrooms across Canada, but most importantly, I have been privileged to learn from many young people from around the world. That’s why I am so excited to be the Youth Co-convener for this year’s Conference, I want to meet and learn from youth (and those young at heart professionals) from around the world. Also, I want to introduce them to the wonders that is Canadian Maple Syrup (I am looking at you Aiden).

You may be asking yourself, what is a mental health superhero? And why does this girl get to be one?

Growing up, I often felt like a superhero, but not in a fun way. It felt like I was one person in public, but in private, I had to put on a mask to defeat my personal villains. And I had a lot of person Villians: self-hate, Anxiety, Body Issues, Depression, Suicidal Ideation, etc. I was always told that these are things you don’t bring out in public. You put on a smile and your best face and carry on. But much like Spiderman or any other hero with a secret identity, it eventually started effecting my life. I started to become someone my family, friends, teachers, and even myself didn’t recognize. I was losing and began to think there was no place on earth for a superhero who couldn’t save the ones she loved from the Villains. So, I tried to take my own life.

I am thankful every day that I am still here and writing this. But it wasn’t until a few days into my stay that I was delivered the best wakeup call I could ask for. An old lady, who had been creepily looking at me for a few hours, came over to me and said “From one crazy person to another, you will need this”, put a necklace in my hand and wandering off. The Necklace was a simple sliver chain with one charm on it that said “Hope”. It was the first time I thought about hope, change and a better life in a very long time. It was in that moment I realize, that asking people with mental health issues to hide their struggles, was like asking Superheroes to fight off the worst bad guys with no weapons or super powers. In that moment, I realized just how incredibly strong everyone living through mental health issues are. And that strength is not something we should hide. It something we should celebrate. I started telling everyone I wanted to be an Iron Man, a superhero who has a badass costume but doesn’t hide who she really is, and has the assistance of other mental health superheroes to fight alongside her, people like friends, family, doctors, researchers, and anyone who wants to join, to change the conversation on mental health.

People like you! If you are every wondering how you can change the conversation around mental health, I encourage you to take the first step by becoming a member of the IAYMH by visiting iaymh.org. It’s free and a great way to get involved in shaping the debate around youth mental health. If you want to do something else, follow @IAYMH on twitter, and follow the conference specific hashtag at #IAYMH2015. If you want some advice on changing the world, I will leave you with a video from an expert on the subject, Kid President

See you in Montreal Superheroes,

Alicia

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