“If there’s not people around you that look like you, you feel alone, you feel as if they don’t have your back, they don’t understand where you’re coming from.”-Ti-Amo Richards, January 30, 2019
While the ACMP acknowledges #BellLetsTalk Day has its flaws, it has been a helpful instrument in promoting tough conversations about mental health and wellness in Canada. This #BellLetsTalk Day, the ACMP decided to join the conversation by sitting down with third-year Carleton student, Ti-Amo Richards.
Ti-Amo Richards was born and raised in Jamaica, briefly stayed in Canada before travelling around the world in 2007, and then permanently settled in Canada again in 2011. The 20-year-old has since lived in Saskatoon (AB), Scarborough (ON), Kitchener (ON), Edmonton (AB), and currently resides in Ottawa.
Q: What was your mental health like in high school?
Ti-Amo Richards: I didn’t necessarily believe in mental illness in high school, especially during grad nine and ten. I believed it was more of a “you feel how you feel,” even though at the same time I was dealing with anxiety and didn’t know how to actually process it. I just denied it. And by denying it I made it worse.
As high school progressed, I read more. In grade 11 and 12 I realized, okay I deal with these issues, and I’m more at risk for other issues as well.
The concussions I had when I first started playing football made it worse, even. And that is why I decided to do neuroscience because I was interested in mental health.
“I didn’t necessarily believe in mental illness in high school… I just denied it. And by denying it, I made it worse.”-Ti-Amo Richards, January 30, 2019
Q: Do you think being a visible minority affects your mental health?
TR: You know people have an image of you. Especially if you want to be free and dress how you want, you know people will have certain expectations of you to be the stereotype, or to try to break the stereotype. So it does put some pressure and in terms of pressure you get anxiety, and you may sometimes feel alone.
If there’s not people around you that look like you, you feel alone, you feel as though they don’t have your back, they don’t understand where you’re coming from.
“When I suffered a concussion in August 2016, I didn’t want to tell anybody because I feel like I’d failed. But by not telling anyone about it, that amplified effects of the depression that I dealt with.”-Ti-Amo Richards, January 30, 2019
Q: How has your mental health changed coming to university?
TR: At first, my mental health was in the gutter when I came to university. The pressures were increased tremendously coming out of high school. I was a good athlete coming out of high school, I was a smart guy. Now, in university, you’re a big fish in a humongous ocean.
Especially when it came to athletics I feel like there was a lot of pressure on me to succeed right away, even though in reality, that’s not the case.
When I suffered a concussion in August 2016, I didn’t want to tell anybody because I feel like I’d failed. But by not telling anyone about it, that amplified effects of the depression that I dealt with and the anxiety that I dealt with.
Q: Do you talk to your parents about your mental health?
TR: I didn’t used to, but now I do. I didn’t think my parents would be open to it, simply because they’re Jamaican. The one day I sat down and I had conversation with them about what was going on with me and they finally took it to heart and they understood.
Even though my father is a medical professional, he still has his cultural backgrounds and it’s still a hard thing for him to accept.
Q: What motivated you to tell your parents?
TR: I was in a place where there was no turning back. I hit rock bottom. I never felt like that way before. The game that I loved, I ended up hating. School that I was really good at, I wasn’t doing good. I needed something to change. I needed to tell someone. I needed to figure it out.
“I was in a place where there was no turning back. I hit rock bottom. I never felt like that way before…I needed something to change. I needed to tell someone.”-Ti-Amo Richards, January 30, 2019
Q: What was it like to see a psychologist and other mental health treatments?
TR: I found it okay. At first, I was nervous and at first I thought it wouldn’t work. It put me on a path to get better. As an adult, it is essentially on me to make sure I go and seek help and I go and I try to do any methods to fix myself.
“It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to have emotions, it’s okay to be sad. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s okay to go to therapy, it’s okay to be on medication. There’s nothing wrong with it at all.”-Ti-Amo Richards, January 30, 2019
Q: Is there anything you would like to say to visible minorities who struggle with mental health?
TR: It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to have emotions, it’s okay to be sad. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s okay to go to therapy, it’s okay to be on medication. There’s nothing wrong with it at all.
When you have a mental illness, it’s like having a cold, but your brain is the thing that’s sick and you have to treat it. If you have a fever, you take Buckley’s, if you have depression, you have to go see someone, talk it out, get it out. It not, it’ll be dark.
Q: Why do you think initiatives like #BellLetsTalk Day, and other fundraisers/awareness campaigns are important?
TR: It gets people talking. There was a point in time where people believed that mental health was a “you” problem, but it really isn’t. Now that people see it, we hear other people’s stories.
Most people won’t think that a guy like me had depression but when I tell my story people are like, “wow, Ti-Amo dealt with that, then who else is dealing with it? He always seems so happy but it turns out he wasn’t happy at all.”
Ti-Amo Richards is a third-year undergraduate student at Carleton University, studying neuroscience. The ACMP’s Victoria Gravesande and Jipreet Kaur sat down with him on January 30, 2019 to talk about mental health.