News / Halifax

Faces of Mental Health: Tyler Simmonds knows how bad it can be and he wants to help

After facing depression and anxiety head on, the North Preston man is ready to tell his story with a book and a fashion line.

Tyler Simmonds poses for a photo in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s Terroir exhibit, a selection of art with Nova Scotian roots.

Jeff Harper / Metro

Tyler Simmonds poses for a photo in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s Terroir exhibit, a selection of art with Nova Scotian roots.

Little more than a year ago, Tyler Simmonds couldn’t get out of bed.

“I was just trapped in my mind, and the world didn’t exist,” Simmonds says, looking back on a time when anxiety and depression had a firm grip on him.

Today, mental illness has loosened its grip, and Simmonds is poised to launch a book and a fashion line this summer, ready to help those who find themselves now where he was then.

“We’re not alone in this,” he says. “There’s a large community of people who deal with mental illness. A lot of us want to help each other, because we know how bad it can be … I don’t want anybody else to ever go through that.”

Simmonds first started to feel the effects of depression and anxiety in high school, but didn’t know what it was.

“I just felt like I was weird and different from everybody else,” he says. “I didn’t seek help for it or anything like that because I just didn’t know that anxiety existed at that age. I didn’t know what depression was, because in my community, nobody that I knew at all talked about mental illness or anything.”

The 26-year-old from North Preston says he identified his symptoms as anxiety through a Google search, and sought help from his family doctor.

After waiting weeks for an appointment with a psychiatrist, he was offered medication, but little guidance.

“I still felt like I was the only one that had it,” he says. “For so long, I just felt so different from everybody else, in a bad way. I thought that something was wrong with me all the time.”

That was until about a year ago, when his mother suggested he go to Cole Harbour Community Mental Health.

There, he found much more than a bottle of pills and a set of instructions.

“Instead of just sitting there and telling me this is what you should do, or reading off instructions to me, she would be like a friend and just sit there and tell me about her life, and I would talk about my life,” Simmonds says of his clinician there, Nancy Trenchard.

“I feel like that’s what people need, they need someone who’s going to be like a friend to them.”

He says in the last year, his health has improved more than in the five before it.

Trenchard introduced him to other people living with depression and anxiety, and helped foster his creativity, pointing out that much of his work centred around helping others, and encouraging people to be themselves.

“When I started getting better, I started to realize it was kind of like a duty of mine … I just feel like it’s just in me, I just have to do it now,” he says of his desire to give back.

“I feel like if we go through really hard things, when we start to get better, we’re supposed to help those people who are in that position that we were in.”

Among other creative pursuits like his upcoming book and non-gendered clothing line, the YouTube video series Simmonds started a few months ago tackles the stigma surrounding mental illness, and helps him come to terms with his feelings.

“It’s all like therapy for me,” he says.

“It’s me expressing myself, and knowing that I’m possibly helping someone else, that helps a lot too.”

Tyler has asked that we include his email here. If you need someone to talk to, reach out:

Tyler Simmonds poses for a photo outside the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Tyler Simmonds poses for a photo outside the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

How to get help:

If you’re in crisis, go to the nearest hospital, call 911, or call the province’s crisis line at 1-888-429-8167 (toll free), available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you’re looking for programs and services, or information about mental health, contact the Canadian Mental Health Association at 1-877-466-6606 (toll free).

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