Role Model: Denica


1.Tell us a bit about yourself! 

  • I am 19 years old 
  • I come from a family of 6, I have two brothers, and one sister 
  • I was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick 
  • My dad is a member of the Canadian Forces, so that means I have moved a lot. Although I was born in Fredericton, NB. I have also lived in Edmonton, AB., Oromocto, N.B., Elsipogtog, N.B., and Petawawa, ON. I actually graduated high school in 2014, in Petawawa Ontario, and moved the day after my prom to move in with my grandmother in Elsipogtog, New Brunswick. It was a really tough day for me but I am happy with the decision I made to move. 
  • I am apart of the Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq first nations community. Both of my parents are also from Elsipogtog. I take pride in my culture and love learning new things about my Mi’kmaq history. 
  • I’ve competed in three pageants, Miss Teenage Ontario 2014, Miss Teenage Canada 2014, and Miss Teen Ontario East 2015. And I am competing for Miss Maritime International 2017 in May. I love doing pageants because it allows me to advocate for topics I believe in such as mental health, self-esteem in youth, aboriginal youth mental health, and much more. 
  • I recently complete in the ACTMA (Atlantic Canada’s Top Model & Actor) competition in early November. I won the title of Grand Overall Top Model 2016. 
  • I am really proud of myself because its something I thought I would never be able to do. 

2. Why is ending the stigma surrounding mental illness important to you? 

Ending the stigma surrounding mental illness is extremely important to me because I remember being young and struggling and having no idea where to go. I distinctly remember not talking about it and being embarrassed because I thought no one would believe me and think I was making it up. I want youth everywhere to understand that they do not need validation from anyone to get help. (Stigma) is one of the biggest things I struggled with when I was young, and even now, it's like “wait…am I sick enough to even get help?" I hear older people everyday shut down struggling youth because they simply think that that young person is just looking for attention, and that is the most awful thing I have ever heard. I want to end the stigma so young people no longer feel ashamed, or embarrassed to get the help they deserve. 

3. What is your favourite method of self-care? 

To be completely honest my favourite method of self-care is a good cry. Nothing feels better to me than sitting in my bed all cozied in my blankets and pillows, listening to Ed Sheeran, and crying till my hearts content. It gives me know to really get in touch with my emotions, to feel absolutely everything I had been trying to bottle up. After I have cried, I like to write in my journal about all the things I am thankful for in my life. I’ll write about my family, the really good coffee I had that morning, that time that girl said “Hi” to me that morning that made me feel less sad. I’ll write about anything good that has happened and things I am looking forward to like seeing my parents. Then to top it all off I like face-timing with my sister or parents, because nothing makes me feel better, especially when I’m feeling lonely, than talking to my family. By the end of my self-care session I feel a lot better. 

4. How do you help others with their mental health struggles? 

Definitely attentive listening, I think that is the most important thing you can do when trying to help others with mental health struggles. Just sit there with arms and ears wide open and listen to everything they have to say. I also like to let them know that I also struggle with mental health issues, but I don’t like to focus too much on it because I don’t want to make it feel like the focus is on me, when I am the one trying to help them. The focus should be just on listening to them but, adding your own experience let’s them know that they are talking to someone that understands how they are feeling and there is no reason to feel embarrassed or scared to share anything. 

5. If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would you say? 

I would tell my younger self to reach out, and to not be scared. I would urge myself to go get the help I need and to definitely talk to my parents so they could help me and get the help that I needed. I would reassure myself and let me know that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, and that I am worth the help I need. Lastly, I would tell myself that anxiety medication is nothing to be scared of, and taking it is nothing to be ashamed of either. 

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