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‘I feel like the life inside of me is coming back again’

A woman holds her hands up in a field
Not since childhood has Amayah* felt happy and hopeful.

As a teenager, her life felt like a pressure cooker – a mother with multiple disabilities, a grandmother with dementia, a father working a low-income job, and Amayah herself struggling with identity issues, serious mental health issues and an undiagnosed developmental disability.

An A student, Amayah clung to schoolwork as a lifeline.

When she first went to university, her marks dropped and her mental health deteriorated to the point where she thought of taking her own life.

Education no longer made me happy. I struggled with depression and anxiety and suicidal ideation. I felt helpless and hopeless; there was nothing that I could do to get myself out,” shares Amayah.

Fortunately, a university health counselor recommended Sunnybrook’s Family Navigation Project (FNP), a donor-funded program that pairs youth across the GTA, aged 13 to 26 who are struggling with mental illness and/or addiction, and their families, with clinically trained navigators who connect them with the services they urgently need.

In February 2021, Amayah emailed FNP and was connected with navigator Elyse Grieco.

With Elyse’s guidance Amayah found what she needed: a female therapist with a similar cultural background. “This was a good match,” says Amayah. “I was finally being seen and heard and respected.”

In therapy, Amayah began to recognize that she may have a developmental disability at the root of her mental health issues. In November 2022 she was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a revelation that she says empowered her. Elyse is helping her connect to ASD-specific resources and support.

Amayah is now 23 years old and pursuing a Bachelor of Health Informatics degree. She’s once again getting As.

“I feel like the life inside of me is coming back again,” she says. Amayah is immensely grateful to donors who support FNP.

Your support allows people like me to help find the care we so desperately need. It genuinely terrifies me to think where I would be now without it.”

You can help youth in our community, like Amayah, find a brighter future by signing up for RBC Race for the Kids taking place on September 23 at Mel Lastman Square. This is a family friendly 5 km walk and run that raises funds for FNP. This is the event’s eleventh year and to date it has raised over $20 million, supporting thousands of youth and their families to find the care they need.

Learn more about RBC Race for the Kids.

*Name has been changed for patient privacy.