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Mindfest: ending the stigma around mental health and well-being

Mindfest takes place at Hart House on October 5.

As a child, Emily Wright suffered from bullying, a learning disability and sexual assault. By her 20s she was living on the streets with a crack cocaine addiction. The Toronto resident will share her remarkable story of courage and recovery at Mindfest, a free Hart House mental health and wellness fair on Wednesday, October 5.

“Conversations about struggle are important because without them, people struggle silently and alone,” says Wright. “Mindfest brings together the voices and contributions of people with lived mental health experiences in the community.”

Wright grew up in a loving and supporting home in the Rosedale neighbourhood of Toronto. Her home life was idyllic — but her school life was excruciating and painful. Cruel bullying chipped away at her self-esteem, following her wherever she went.

Wright changed schools seven times over the course of 10 years. After being diagnosed with a learning disability and having been sexually assaulted by a schoolmate, Wright turned to drug use. With her life and addiction flying out of control, Wright was admitted to the hospital at age 15. Three years, 12 treatment centres, and a cross-country care-seeking journey later, she returned to Toronto and began living on the streets with a crack addiction.

Homeless for the better part of a year, Wright found her way to Eva’s Phoenix - a youth shelter that helps teens transition out of homelessness. With the support she needed, Wright worked tirelessly toward finding her passion and worth, when she discovered her love of working with children. Having found confidence for the first time, she went on to complete high school, university and move into her own apartment. 

Today, Wright talks about her experiences bravely and openly. Her story, Gone Girl, was published in Toronto Life Magazine in November 2014. Now a highly sought-after public speaker, Wright works as an early childhood educator in a kindergarten classroom, working to ensure the children in her classroom have positive educational experiences. As an educator, Wright is committed to putting an end to bullying and fostering social justice.

Wright’s story reminds us that no one is immune to mental health struggles, addiction, or homelessness. Mindfest raises awareness about resources for help and aims to end the stigma around mental health and well-being.

Free and open to the public, Mindfest gives attendees the opportunity to learn, engage, and become active participants in dismantling stigma and creating awareness about mental health.  

Mindfest takes place Wednesday, October 5th at Hart House (7 Hart House Circle).

Visit www.mindfest.ca for the day’s full speaker & workshop line-up.