Our residents share their stories of struggle, survival and recovery so that others will understand what it is like to turn mental illness into mental health.

Vancouver Island Mental Health Society provides a range of much-needed services to people in our community experiencing mental health issues. Our work powerfully impacts not only the people we work with directly, but also their families and the larger community as a whole. Take a moment to read the personal story of one of our residents to better understand the impact our organization has on peoples lives. We also ask you to consider remembering us with a charitable gift in support of our important work throughout the year. Any amount you can share will be greatly appreciated and put to good use right here at home.

Rachael’s story

Once you’ve been homeless from mental health issues, you understand the importance of kindness. VIMHS is beyond kind. They provide luxurious living circumstances for voice-hearers regardless of their income. There is no expectation placed on the shoulders of the residents; instead, encouragement is laid at our feet. Voice-hearers are free to heal at their own pace.

My name is Rachael and I’ve been a voice-hearer for eight years. After seven years my voices and I managed to tune out from each other simultaneously for six to nine months. When my mother passed away in May of 2011, my voices returned with a vengeance. What followed was probably the most difficult year of voices I have ever encountered; yet it was also the most rewarding in a very deep way.

By the time I was admitted to Gateway House late in 2011, I was at death’s door. From the moment I was quietly shown around the place, I was amazed. Take Gateway House itself for example ( a resident’s first port of call) — comfortable, clean, and homey personal bedrooms, endless and effective central heating, unlimited hot water in fresh bathrooms, big and airy common rooms comfortably furnished and decorated, modern conveniences up the ying-yang, and daily delicious home cooking!! I entered Gateway House with a huge sigh of relief.

I think what makes Gateway so special though is the way it’s run and the people inside it. Staff are caring but respectful, professional but gentle, consistent but patient. Residents are relaxed, trustworthy, and also gentle. You never wake up in the morning afraid of the people around you and for a voice-hearer this is integral. Politics are seemingly nonexistent and bad moods are quickly attended to.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of living as a member of the Vancouver Island Mental Health Society, is comparing notes with other voice-hearers. It’s got to be the most VALIDATING experience for us that there is! You find out just how strong you truly are and THEN, you discover just how truly extraordinary the deepest suffering voice-hearers around you are!!! This is an eye opener. And lest we forget the humble staff flitting in and around all of us voice-hearers daily with endless patience, compassion and support.

Now I’m a lucky member of the extended VIMHS family — the semi-independent living facilities. Well, if I thought Gateway House was luxurious, I think the space I’ve been moved into is surreal! For semi-independent living, a bachelor suite is unusual and I’m making the most of every peaceful moment in it. The suite is fully furnished in every way, right down to the knives and forks. The rest of the fold in the house are relaxing cheerful people. How such a space as this is provided for semi-independent living folks, I cannot fathom, but I’m loving it.

Nanaimo has been a very soft place to land and heal. The people here are soft. I am simply passing through but I will remember my time with the VIMHS for the rest of my life. It has been a major turning point for me. I look to the future with new hope and every beautiful person I’ve encountered here will remain in my heart always. Thank you….


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