Thursday, November 21, 2013

Douglas College grad finds meaning in mental health work

David Denofreo photo
Keneisha Ormsby wants to do her part to erase the stigma around mental illness.

A graduate of the Community Social Service Work program at Douglas College, Keneisha is employed as a full-time mental health worker in Surrey.

“There is more conversation about mental health and awareness is building,” she says. “Everybody knows someone that has a mental illness, through some way or another. But I think there’s lots of people out there who just don’t get it. Mental illness is hard to really understand.”

Keneisha, who was born in Jamaica and grew up in Surrey, originally wanted a career working with youth. But she changed her mind when she completed a practicum at a mental health facility as part of the two-year diploma program.

“The people I worked with during the practicum just taught me so much about life and what they’re going through and how they’re trying to combat stigma,” she says. “And then I realized that this stigma is huge and it’s everywhere, so I wanted to be a part of fighting that.”

“I thought I knew about mental illness and I had my own ideas of what people would be like or how they would act. But then, when you actually experience it and meet people, it’s so different than what you think.”

“Many people over their lifetime will suffer mental illness, whether it’s depression or something else. With some people, you’d never even know they have a mental illness, but they do and they’re living with it and their life is good.”

In her current job, Keneisha works for a non-profit organization that provides life-skills training to clients with serious mental illness. The goal of the program is to help them transition to independent living.

“I truly love my job and I’m very fortunate to have really amazing clients,” she says. “They notice that they’re improving in their abilities and then their confidence just grows with that.”

As for the future, Keneisha says she is happy working in the mental health field and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work.

More information about the Douglas College Community Social Service Work program is available here.