Jess Tetreault and Courtney Quinn-LaFond became close friends in high school and started dating in grade 11. After high school, both women decided to attend the University of Windsor.
“I thought I was suffering alone. In the silence of my lonely dorm room, I believed that nobody else could possibly feel the way that I did. I thought that nobody knew what it felt like to be alone, afraid of the unknown, afraid of being vulnerable.”
Jessica did not understand why Courtney was acting so distant and withdrawn.
“At the time, I didn’t know much about mental health and mental illness; I thought Courtney was unhappy with our relationship.”
That February, Jessica decided to attend the Unleash the Noise summit (now called Jack Summit), where she learned about the stigma attached to mental health issues. Jessica realized that she wasn’t helping Courtney with what she was going through. Courtney watched the summit from home and began to understand that the stigma and her fear of rejection were stopping her from reaching out for help.
A few weeks after the summit, Courtney lost her great-uncle to suicide. This was a turning point for both Courtney and Jess. Courtney saw her doctor and both women started seeing counsellors.
“I never expected someone so close to my family to have been struggling alongside with me. I knew exactly what he was going through; I knew the everyday struggles that he was going through, and I knew the sense of loneliness that he experienced. That was when I really decided it was time to stand out and be an advocate.” Courtney
Now Courtney sees a counsellor to manage her depression and Jessica sees a counsellor so she can be a supportive partner and to take care of her own mental health.
JESS AND COURTNEY GET LOUD
Courtney and Jessica have become advocates in the movement to end the stigma around mental health issues. They started a chapter of Jack.org at the University of Windsor, and last year were co-leads on the executive team. Both women have trained to tell their stories as Jack Talks Speakers.
“I had the amazing opportunity to attend Jack Summit 2015 and share my story with other mental health advocates nationwide.” Courtney
“Mental health became a passion of mine, and I am now a leader in the movement to end the stigma around it…. It is through my involvement that I have started to take responsibility for my own mental health; and although I do not suffer from a mental illness, I now seek support from a counsellor as well.” Jessica
This coming year, Jessica will be the President of Jack.org UWindsor, and Courtney will be the Talks Lead – leading talks about mental health in their community.