Mental Health Educator, Toronto Canada
Living with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks

Bart knew from an early age that he and his family were different. After many challenging years of living with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and hearing voices, Bart learned how to effectively advocate for himself and take active steps towards recovery. He says he “retired from corporate life and became the CEO of his own life.” Now, he is a mental health advocate and inspirational speaker who believes that our mental health conditions do not define who we are. Bart emphasizes that people living with mental health conditions can get well, stay well, and live in recovery.

Bart’s Story

How has your condition impacted your life? What was your most difficult time? 

For 45 years I didn’t wake up one single day feeling or functioning well. Looking back over my life I would say that I recognized as early as age three that something was wrong with me and my family. By the time I was 12 years old I had a plan and was ready to fix myself.

The most difficult time was between ages 38-45. I was divorced, lost my license to practice as a minister and was struggling with guilt from having to lay off 209 staff members. Finally crippled by the effects of my mental health conditions, I had to be hospitalized and in full-time treatment for over a year.

What is your life like now? 

Currently, I am an independent performance management consultant. I have also worked at the Mood Disorder Association of Ontario (MDAO) as a facilitator for the Mental Health Commission of Canada Headstrong program, WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan), Laughing Like Crazy, and Peer Support Training. 

In addition, I provide one-on-one peer support in-house at the MDAO, as well as to several of MDAO’s affiliates across the Province of Ontario. When I am not busy facilitating or consulting, I often volunteer my time to support community events.

I also take pride in being an inspirational speaker who is always willing to talk about my mental health and recovery journey. 

What help or specific strategies helped you to get well and move to stability?   

I participated in a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) workshop shortly after the worst crisis in my adult life in 2011 and I literally fell in love with WRAP. Why? Because it gave me a framework that helped me manage the ‘ebs and flows’ of my challenges with my mental health, starting with 5 key concepts as my foundation. 

I now have hope for today and for tomorrow. I take personal responsibility for how I feel instead of blaming my past or my mood, using my wellness toolbox as my guide. For the past 5 years, each year I have achieved my personal strategic plan to continue to feel and function well. So far, 4 of the 5 years have been without medication.

What do you do to manage your condition and stay healthy on an ongoing basis?

I follow my WRAP plan which involves the following; 5 Key Recovery Concepts, Wellness Tools, Wellness Recovery Action Planning (Daily maintenance plans, Triggers and action plans, Early warning signs and action plan, When things are breaking down or getting worse and action plan, Crisis plan & post crisis plan) and I update my plans as often as I need to.

Are there positives that have come from having a mental health condition?  If so, what?

Yes, I have learned  how to build on the foundation of WRAP while respecting the values and ethics, as I use effective language to tell my stories in ways that will inspire people to unleash their own power within them and achieve whatever goals they choose to work towards.

How has your condition impacted your work and your career? 

I am a retired management professional, who worked successfully for almost 30 years in corporate Canada despite my mental health challenges.

I started a new career as a Mental Health Educator and my goals are to inspire and peak curiosity in people, so that anyone who experiences mental health challenges or is supporting someone who does, will do one or all of the following; become active in practicing self-care, giving and/or receiving support, help reduce stigma towards those of us with mental health challenges and create safe spaces so that we can all enjoy a better quality of life.

What motivated you to join The Stability Network?  What do you hope to get from it?

I met two Stability Leaders in the Canada region and they were so inspirational I wanted to be part of what they were doing. Then I was introduced to The Stability Network and was very impressed with the structure, support, and guidance potential leaders like me could benefit from.

I hope to continue to learn more about myself and continue telling my story to inspire others seeking to live well, feel well, and function well like myself.

Are there resources (books, videos, websites) that helped and/or inspired you that you would recommend to others?

Yes, WRAP, Toastmaster, Napoleon Hill – Think and Grow Rich, Stephen Covey – The Seven Habits of Successful People, Brene Brown – The Power of Vulnerability, just to name a few. Also utilizing the tools, systems, and workshops that The Stability Network provides.

Is there anything else you want to say / share?

Yes, I like the fact that Stability Leaders do not need to feel the pressure of being ‘on’ all the time and are free to take the time to rejuvenate if they are feeling low regardless of their tenure, experience, etc.

Self-Care seems to be the number one focus.