SAIT Trojans make noise to break mental health stigma
Sara Pauls, who plays on SAIT’s women’s basketball team, said her family experienced mental health issues first hand.
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Sara Pauls is working to break the mental health stigma for her twin brother, Matt.
Sara, who plays on SAIT's women’s volleyball team, was among dozens of cheering Trojans Monday afternoon, parading throughout campus for SAIT’s Make Some Noise For Mental Health awareness campaign.
Matt was diagnosed with manic bipolar depression in Grade 9, Sara said.
“He was suffering with substance abuse and was going through a really tough time,” she said. “He felt like he was in the dark with mental illness because it was something a lot of people don’t feel like they can talk about.”
Matt’s diagnosis and substance abuse took a toll on the Pauls family, Sara said.
“It was really hard,” Sara said. “I was leaving for my first year of college and he was being sent to that institution in Nanaimo.”
She said many were ignorant to Matt’s situation — they thought he could quickly change mental well being.
“It’s not like that,” she said. “It’s like any other disease — he has no ways of controlling that, so it was hard to see him feel like he was put down.
“I feel like that put more pressure on my family. It’s hard to understand (mental illness) unless you're seeing it like we did or being in someone’s shoes.”
Pauls and parents got semi-colon tattoos to honour Matt. The tattoo represents a year someone has gone through forms of mental illness.
She said it’s been hard to leave her family in Canmore, though she knows Matt wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“I know he would want me to play here at SAIT — he knew how hard I worked to get a spot here,” she said.
Matt was recently discharged from rehab, Sara added. And he’s been clean.
“I could not go through what he’s going through,” she said. “I’m just as equally as proud of him as he is of me.
“It’s made our family extremely closer. It’s like we can go through anything.”
She said talking about mental health helps reduce the stigma.
“Today is just one step closer to making this something that’s okay.”