By Sean O’Malley
It’s been a pretty eventful 10 days in the life of Jessica Rogers.
On Monday, she was introduced by CAMH CEO Dr. Catherine Zahn to speak at the official groundbreaking for the next major phase of CAMH's Queen Street site redevelopment.
Former CAMH client Jessica Rogers, 20, speaks at the official groundbreaking event.
The weekend before last, she met Prince Harry at a roundtable discussion on youth mental health during his visit to CAMH.
Jessica, (far left) tells her story of addiction and recovery at CAMH while CAMH's Dr. Peter Szatmari, Dr. Catherine Zahn and Prince Harry look on.
Twenty months before any of that she was at CAMH’s Emergency Department, flat-lining from a drug overdose before being brought back to life.
“I was at a place where all I wanted to do was die,” she said. “Being alive was just too painful. I was completely resigned to the idea that I was going to live and die as a drug addict.”
I am happy to report that Jessica, now 20, is alive, and well.
Since that near-death experience she has been substance-free and is going to college. She’s already thinking about her next step when she graduates…maybe law school.
The journey from there to here has been a long one for Jessica. By the time she came to CAMH as a 15-year-old homeless teenager in the grips of addiction and mental illness, she had already been to just about every treatment facility in Toronto.
She was actually one of the very first clients at the Irma Brydson In-Patient Unit for Youth with concurrent mental illness and addictions when it opened in 2012 as part of the second phase of the Redevelopment.
“It was the warmest and most therapeutic environment I had ever experienced,” she says. “None of those white cinderblock walls, which can kind of drive you crazy on its own. I liked having my own room, wearing my own clothes, having my own bathroom. It wasn’t like the whole Girl Interrupted scene.”
But her troubles were deep and not easily fixed. She would be admitted to CAMH several more times during the rest of her teenage years.
Looking back now, she attributes her ability to stay alive and keep trying to the unwavering support of the clinical staff at CAMH.
“The last time I came here, all I did was just try to put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. CAMH never stopped believing in me. Even when I had zero faith in myself, when I felt I had nothing to live for, nobody here ever gave up on me. They saw the potential I didn’t know I had and believed in me until I could believe in myself.”