The This Is Who I Am Project is a series of round table discussions surrounding LGBTQ issues, mental health and wellness. The project is for LGBTQ community, by the community. It’s aimed at furthering the discussion around mental health and getting the resources needed to support one another.

Their inaugural event is this Sunday November 20th from 2 to 5 p.m. at The 519 (519 Church St). Geared to LGBTQ youth aged 16-29, there will be a panel discussion with professional speakers discussing issues about mental health, the coming out process, gender identity, body confidence, school and workplace inclusion.

Michelle Yan chatted with us about why she started the project and how we can help.

SDTC: What was the impetus behind This Is Who I Am?

MY: I struggled with depression and for the longest time I was so afraid of people finding out. There are so many people affected by mental health issues, especially in our community. Whether it be the “coming out process,” gender identity, bullying, family situations or work and school inclusion, mental health issues are widespread and are at a dangerous level that affects LGBTQ people emotionally and physically. The problem is nobody wants to talk about it – they are ashamed to admit it or they may feel weak. My stand for this project is to end the stigma and get people to start talking about it so we can support each other. And it’s okay not to be okay sometimes. To be proud because This Is Who I Am.

What has the response been like so far?

The response has been amazing! There are so many LGBTQ supporters and advocates who want to be involved in this project in any way they can. In our inaugural event, all the speakers are passionate about the community and taking a stand about mental health and are donating their time to speak, educate and share their experiences. We have inspired many people to reach out and say, “I am struggling with depression and anxiety, but your project makes it a little bit easier to get through my day knowing that you understand what I am going through.”

How would you like to see the project evolve in 2017?

We want to this project to continue to promote awareness of mental health and wellness in the LGBTQ community beyond this inaugural event. Within the next year, we are looking to continue to host speaker events, partner with additional organizations like Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO), provide outreach events and continue promoting conversation through social media campaigns, and establish ambassadors in the GTA.

How can we help?

Help us spread the word! We want to provide a greater reach to the LGBTQ community and support each other. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

As part of this initiative I would love if supporters can take a picture of themselves in black and white, holding a sheet of paper with the writing – “This Is Who I Am Project” and with #letsendthesilence. They can include any blurb they want regarding their experiences with mental health and wellness. With their permission, I would like to feature them on our social media campaign as well. These pictures are a representation of our stand for the LGBTQ community and mental health and to be proud of all that we are and all that we are not! Your picture and your stand is a huge impact to people in the our community.