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Thomas is a member of the New Winds Day Program, who enjoys the friendships he has made there, along with the encouragement and support that he receives. A resident of Pickering, Thomas enjoys playing cards, making friends, and listening to music. Victimized by unimaginable abuse from a very early age, Thomas has built himself a safe and satisfying life. Here is his story:

When I was young, I was sexually assaulted almost every day by my father and one of his drinking buddies. My parents eventually split up, which stopped the abuse, but only temporarily. I was later victimized again by a friend of my godfather.

The abuse led me to be suicidal – I made my first serious attempt at age 13. I’ve coped with lifelong insomnia, because I was afraid to close my eyes. I struggled with this abuse privately – no one knew, and when I did eventually tell my family, they dismissed me and acted like it was nothing.

Some good things came into my life as well. I met my wife, who was a constant and dependable support throughout our 38-year marriage. I found a good job as a nurse, and later as a correctional officer, and moved to the Muskokas. However, the legacy of the abuse was always with me, and I was still connected to relatives who put me down and didn’t believe my story of abuse.

Following a hospitalization, I made the move to Durham Region, and it been such a healthy place for me. I got away from an abusive family environment and I connected to DMHS Community Support. I’ve been so pleased by the amount and quality of help they’ve offered; I’m not used to being treated well. Most of my life I’ve been knocked around, but I’m still here.

My worker was so friendly. She listened to and believed my story. She helped me connect to a Day Program, and to Crisis Services when I needed it. She made me believe in and feel good about myself and my future, and helped my plan my next steps. She talked to me in a such compassionate and genuine way. I feel she should get an award for the work she does.

New Winds has also been a tremendous help. Most of the time in life, you’re put down on account of your mental illness, or, for example, my aunt would say, “It’s not the mental illness, you’re just a bad person.” Whereas at the day program, everyone has their own story of illness and recovery – they can relate to you, and know how you feel and what you’ve been through. I’m respected by my peers for my sense of humour and my friendly manner, and it gives me a great feeling every day.

If someone is wondering, “Should I contact DMHS for help?” I would tell them, “Get here as quick as you can. You will find love and understanding, emphasis on love. There are no words for how much appreciation I have for their staff.”

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