DJ Scratchley Q aka Ashley Quackenbush.

MANITOULIN—Ashley Quackenbush of Manitowaning has launched Worth Living Manitoulin Island, a local chapter of an organization that advocates, provides education and supports individuals living with mental illness.

“I have struggled with mental illness in the past and I am coping with mental illness—I have anxiety and depression,” Ms. Quackenbush bravely shared. “I came across an amazing organization called Worth Living last year and wanted to join and become an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention and share my mental health journey to help educate others about mental health.”

Ms. Quackenbush said that when she was struggling with depression and anxiety she had a hard time reaching out for help.

“I kept my struggles to myself because I didn’t want people to judge me,” she said. “I thought it would cause me to lose the people closest to me. I also though it would have an effect on how people saw me as a DJ. I was worried that people would see me as weak, unreliable and attention seeking­­­­––mainly because of the stigma around mental illness.”

She explained that by March of 2013 she was breaking down and “falling apart at the seams,” struggling to keep her secret and deal with her mental illness alone.

“I felt like I couldn’t fight anymore and that’s when I attempted to end my own life—I attempted suicide,” said Ms. Quackenbush. “I was too scared to ask for help.”

After her suicide attempt Ms. Quackenbush was able to get the help she needed and is now managing her illness with the help of medication and therapy.

“I still struggle with mental illness today, but now I choose to ask for help,” she said. “There are little things in my every day life I had to tweak to make my mental health better. I’m grateful that my attempt was not successful. In the last few years I have had so many great opportunities and have had much success. The most difficult step for myself was to ask for help. I can truly say, and I can’t stress enough, how important it is for one to reach out. We need people there for people who are having a difficult time. We need people to be there for others to listen and provide guidance. Everybody needs someone.”

Worth Living is based out of Halifax. It was started by Keith Anderson, who suffered from severe depression which led to the loss of his legal career and a mental breakdown.

“With the guidance of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, I found a therapist with whom I was comfortable,” Mr. Anderson shared on worthliving.co. “Two years of weekly therapy allowed me to learn about depression and how it had impacted my life. Small steps, from going for a drive around the city or trying to read the newspaper, added up to getting healthy.”

After getting healthy, Mr. Anderson worked on an article about his journey which was published by the National Post through a series ‘All About Bounding Back,’ titled ‘How I Returned to a Life Worth Living.’

The article led to Mr. Anderson starting to deliver speeches, inspiring others to “embrace all we have” and to start worthliving.co, an online support network for people to share their mental health journey and help educate others about mental health.

As a Worth Living ambassador Ms. Quackenbush curates weekly top 10 music countdowns and writes for the Worth Living blog about her journey and mental health in the music industry.

“There are ambassadors all over the world,” she said. “Everyone uses their talents or strengths to help with the website and cause. Some people blog, others led their graphic design skills etc., but we all have the same goal to provide education and support.”

With the launch of Worth Living Manitoulin Island, Ms. Quackenbush will advocate for mental health on Manitoulin Island, providing education and support to people living with mental illness.

“The message of Worth Living Manitoulin Island is one of health, hope, and happiness,” she shared. “We are hoping to have presentations, special events, merchandise, blog posts, music mixes and weekly music countdowns.”

If individuals are looking to get involved they can learn more or register to become an ambassador at worthliving.co.

“Wednesday, January 31 is Bell Let’s Talk Day,” said Ms. Quackenbush. “Bell Canada will donate five cents towards mental health initiatives for every text message sent by Bell Canada (Bell Aliant and Bell MTS) customers. This initiative encourages mental health education and donates money to help people in need.”

Bell also donates five cents for every time an individual watches the Bell Let’s Talk Day video or tweets using #BellLets Talk, every time an individual watches the Let’s Talk Day video on Instagram or Facebook or uses the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or watches the video on Snapchat or sends a snap using the Bell Let’s Talk filter.

Bell Let’s Talk was started in 2010 as a way to encourage Canadians to “engage in an open discussion about mental illness, offering new ideas and hope for those who struggle, with numbers growing every year,” states letstalk.bell.ca.

“If you or someone you know is suffering with mental health illness, reach out for help,” urges Ms. Quackenbush.

A list of Manitoulin health services and resources are available on the worthliving.co Manitoulin Island website.

If you or someone you know is in a crisis call 911 or Crisis Services Canada at 1833-456-4566 or text 45645 of the Warm Line at 1-866-856-9276.