“You are amazing and life is worth living.”

@DrawWithMalik or Aliyah is 20 years-old, a self-proclaimed “sweater person” and her favourite lyrics are “If at first you don’t succeed, you can dust it off and try again. Dust yourself off and try again” from the song “Try Again” by singer Aaliyah (the same artist she was named after.) Her favourite play is A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare and one days she’d like to be an art teacher.

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She is also diagnosed with SchizoAffective disorder.

“SchizoAffective disorder is a combination of schizophrenia and a mood disorder. For me it’s Depression,” said Aliyah.

She explained that sometimes it can be scary and distracting. It makes school really hard,” she said. “I’ve also tended to keep it to myself because people treat me differently when they discover my disorder.”

Aliyah started having hallucinations her freshman year of high school.

 “It scared me,” she said. “I would think they were bad dreams or I had some gift or what not.”

When she turned 15 years she started seeing a therapist who suggested that it would be better for her to go to a higher level of care. She was given medication and spent half her day at school and the other half in a hospital program called partial care.

 She began taking group therapy session and since then has been in and out of partial care and other hospital programs.

 “Sometimes I would feel really sad and that life isn’t worth fighting for,” she said. “Those thoughts were too much to bare so I would spend about a month at a time away from my family in a hospital with others dealing with those same thoughts.”

 During the summer, Aliyah participated in a program called “the Youth Partnership.” It was a group of students as young as 8 or as old as 21, all with stories to share and relate to.

 “I’ve met others with schizoaffective disorder plus those with major depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and much more,” she said. “We talked a lot and shared stories of what we been though.”

 The group also did events around the community to help others bring light to their own mental illness. Aliyah got into these programs thanks to her therapist who wanted her to become more involved with the community.

 And “the Youth Partnership” wasn’t the only program she was involved in. “My high school has something named the teen center where we did events around the school such as bake sales and celebrations,” she said. “My guidance counselor got me into that one.” Last weekend she even participated in a suicide prevention walk.

 She said, “It’s a 2 mile walk but I am ready!”

 “Girls, you have to keep it up. It gets hard. I understand that. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay. Though I must say, please don’t give up. You are amazing and life is worth living. There are such bad stigmas surrounding mental health but you are not one of them. Keep it up because it gets better and easier.”

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