The 28-year-old Cape Breton University business graduate didn’t let those conditions hold him back from serving as co-master of ceremonies for the annual Living with Mental Illness and Addiction conference that took place this week at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre.
In an interview, the Sydney native said that in the last six months he has developed severe depression, and previous to that he lived with obsessive compulsive and attention deficit disorders.
“I’m still working a full-time job even though some days I wake up I feel that bad I can’t get out of bed,” Yurchesyn said. “When I was going to school I found that I always had problems. I had an above-average IQ but I felt that when I was in school I couldn’t pay attention to teachers, I would have to get stuff repeated to me, I had problems sleeping. It made me so I couldn’t concentrate like other people.”
When he went on to university, Yurchesyn said he found the effects of the conditions seemed to subside and he did much better, but eventually he began to encounter difficulties again.
“Every day I woke up, I felt like I didn’t want to go to work, I had a headache,” he said. “I just kept on going with it, I said to myself I wasn’t going to give up.
“I just realized that sitting on my ass and just worrying about it wasn’t going to help anything.”
Following graduation he took several months off work and said he decided he was going to deal with the challenges facing him “the best way I know how.”
It was his involvement in Crossroads, a clubhouse program for people living with mental illness, that Yurchesyn credits with his improved ability to deal with his illness. Medication also plays an important role, he noted.
“Since I went to Crossroads I’ve met people that have the same problems as I have, when I say stuff everybody is supportive of me,” he said. “It’s like people understand that just because I have a mental illness doesn’t mean I’m any less intelligent or able to do things than anyone else.
“Overall, it’s thinking more positively about things, only worry about the things you can help and not the things you can’t help.”
As for why he wanted to take on the role as co-master of ceremonies at the conference, along with Scott Boyd, Yurchesyn said he is passionate about speaking and is not afraid to talk about mental illness.
“I have my issues and I deal with them, I like to help others in the community,” he said. “There’s people that don’t know what to do when they have a mental illness, they don’t have people that know how to deal with it.”
It’s due to people being willing to speak out that there seems to be a better understanding of mental illness, Yurchesyn said.
“There’s more awareness that it doesn’t mean you can’t work at a job, accomplish goals and do great things,” he said.
Yurchesyn works in sales and service at Stephen’s Rona and says his employers have been good to accommodate his illness, such as modifying his work week to alleviate any anxiety he may experience.
“They’ve been very supportive of my condition and the fact that I have to have a break in between so I don’t get too stressed out, I don’t get sick from the work,” he said.
The annual conference offers a first voice perspective of living with mental illness and addiction as a way of reducing stigma and improving knowledge. It is organized by the Family Working Group, a partnership between Mental Health and Addiction Services in Cape Breton and families of people with mental illness or addiction and local community organizations.
Other speakers included comedian Jessica Holmes, photographer John Ratchford and Kayley Reed, co-founder and CEO of Wear Your Label, which created clothing intended to encourage conversations about mental health.