A highlight of DMHS’ recent Annual General Meeting occurred when Renee Tiiu Parratt received the 2nd Annual Sue Cathcart Peer Recognition Award from the previous recipient, Jewel Harrington. Renee’s long association with DMHS has culminated in her current role as a member and speaker for the organization’s consumer empowerment group Voices Against Stigma Everywhere (V.A.S.E.) Renee sat down with DMHS to speak about the award, about her recovery journey and about her active life and future plans.
How did it feel to receive this award?
At the time of receiving the award, I was absolutely shocked. I did not expect it at all. I feel very honoured to have received it. Sue was a champion for mental health and I hope to honour her name by being a champion for mental health also.
Is it particularly special knowing that the recipient is decided by your peers?
It is special that my peers decided that I should be recognized for this award. I think it is easy for me to overlook how far I have come in my recovery because it happened so gradually. For my peers at DMHS to recognize this change is very special.
What has recovery meant in your life?
Recovery to me is not about living the perfect life or never having hard times. It is about always getting back up when you are down. Recovery is about experiencing life with hope, energy, commitment, openness and persistence no matter what. Recovery is definitely an ongoing process and I do have my bumps or setbacks. To be able to experience the recovery that I have is truly a miracle from God.
What message would you give to people who are just beginning their recovery journeys?
Everyone’s journey, everyone’s way of dealing with the pain and everyone’s road to recovery is different, but everyone can have hope that a better future is possible. Most importantly, never forget or lose hope that mental illness can be overcome. The road to recovery will be a difficult one and it is a road worth taking.
What message would you give to mental health service providers?
“I am trying my best to overcome my mental health disorders – please do not judge me, do not accuse me of trying to get attention, see that I am trying to cope the best I can. I am way more than my mental health issues.”
What are your current involvements?
I am very active. I work as a program activity leader for an after-school program at the Boys and Girls Club of Durham. I am an online student at Durham College currently studying in the Social Service Worker program. This semester I am taking five courses. I am involved with DMHS’ Voices Against Stigma Everywhere (V.A.S.E.) group. V.A.S.E. is a group of people with lived mental health experience who share their stories of recovery to inspire others and break down the stigma associated with mental illness. I am also actively involved with my church, Carruthers Creek Community Church. I volunteer there in their children’s ministry.
What are your future goals?
One goal I have right now is to graduate from the SSW program. I hope to become a Peer Support Specialist just as Sue was. Sue touched my life in so many ways and I hope to be able to do the same for others.
The second goal I have is to continue to advocate for myself and others to break down the stigma that exists surrounding mental health. Two areas where I would like to see things improve are healthcare and policing.
Thanks and congratulations, Renee!