Written by Clara Morgan, Social Program Officer, Mental Health and Substance Use Services

Clara Morgan is a social program officer with the Mental Health and Substance Use program and has lived experience of mental illness. She shares her personal story of recovery.

Clara Morgan is a person with lived experience of mental illness. Her journey with mental illness has been tough, but with treatment, respect and family support, today Clara is living a happy and fulfilling life as a proud mom of two boys, a social worker with Fraser Health’s Mental Health and Substance Use program, and a public speaker.

In recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week, October 1 – 7, we are featuring the following excerpt from her personal story of recovery, “This story begins with my Grade 12 yearbook photo” published in the Fraser Health newsroom. Read Clara’s full story.

This story begins with my Grade 12 yearbook photo. Of all the pictures taken in my youth, this shot was my favourite; it was so soft and sweet.

That girl was a straight-A student whose mornings alternated between rowing in Stanley Park at 5 a.m. and singing in the school choir before class. She tutored students at lunch time to obscure the fact that she didn’t have a lot of friends to hang out with, and she volunteered for an HIV/AIDS organization downtown during her free time. She wanted a grand adventure after high school, and applied to McGill University in Montreal.

That girl, on the day she sat for her photo, was a year away from her life falling apart, and she didn’t even know it. She thought she had the world at her fingertips, and so did everyone else.

At the end of August 1996, I flew to my new life in Montreal with so much excitement. I will admit to some partying. I will admit that school became less important than having fun, because I had never been around so many people who liked me. My life wasn’t without struggle, but it was wonderful.

Clara Morgan is a social program officer with the Mental Health and Substance Use program and has lived experience of mental illness.

The joy I experienced filled my heart and soul like helium, yet it was dashed so quickly. Depression took a hold of me, pulled me down, and told me all sorts of nonsense. While I had just undergone training for one of McGill’s crisis lines, it was suddenly me placing a call for help; help before I killed myself.

Fast forward to November. I am on the psychiatric ward of a hospital in Montreal. In my confusion and desperation, I self-harm for the first time, and then again. My mom comes. She holds me and rocks me in her arms because that is what I need, and ultimately packs up my dorm room. My university career is over and I am transferred to a hospital psychiatric ward back home in B.C. I’m in so much pain, and I become intent on ending my life.

Countless trips to ER because of my self-harming and my suicide attempts, and twenty hospitalizations later, I came out from the darkest of tunnels into the sunshine of a life on the mend.

Read Clara’s full story.

For more information about mental health and substance use services, visit fraserhealth.ca/mentalhealth

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