On Friday, October 27, McFadden’s Movement welcomed Anika Berringer as the MM27 Ambassador of the Game, while the Guelph Storm downed the Erie Otters 4-3 in a shootout victory.
Personally familiar with social and general anxiety, Anika – a resident of Rockwood, Ontario and a grade 11 student at Guelph Centennial Vocational Institute (GCVI) – offered her own experience with mental illness in the shape of a constant struggle for as long as she can remember.
“From the time I can remember, I was always struggling to make friends, join teams, and finding myself,” Anika explained. “Around the end of grade eight, my nana was diagnosed with stage four cancer, and that’s when I started to struggle with depression.”
“My grade nine year, I really struggled with making friends, and I always felt lonely,” Anika continued. “Around January in ninth grade, my depression was sucking any source of happiness from my life, and I started having thoughts about if life was even worth living.”
Anika, though, made the choice to reach out and get help – a choice that she says helped her see the light at the end of the tunnel again.
“To this day, I still struggle with depression and anxiety, but after getting help, and learning positive coping strategies, the struggles are not as prominent as they used to be,” she said. “I feel like I’ve finally come out the other side.”
Along that path, Anika recalls being put into a class during her tenth grade year that helped students cope with mental health challenges at GCVI.
“It was a small class of 14 anxious beings,” she said, adding that the class quickly came together to become very passionate about talking openly about mental health. “[We] put on a presentation at Willow Road Public School – just like that, the spark inside of me turned into a huge flame. We started a club at the school called ‘Open Minds’ as a mental health advocacy group.”
Open Minds works to help people get the help they need, to start the conversation, and to end the stigma.
“We put on a PD Day Presentation for the teachers, all about how to help students with anxiety. Soon enough, we were in the newspaper,” Anika shared. “We ran mental health week at the school, made a website, and took off with our project.”
Now Anika has her sights set on a degree in psychology, hoping to pair it with another passion in her life: music. A musician through playing the guitar, piano, and singing, Anika – who plays music sets at the local market in Rockwood during the summer and performs at school – is looking into a pathway of music and art therapy to continue her work with mental health.
“Mental health is important to me because it has been a big part of my journey,” Anika said. “It has brought incredible people into my life and has helped to form me into the person I am today.”
“I found a passion in speaking out about the issues that everyone is afraid to address.”