At her lowest point, Kaola Baird felt like she was living two lives. Things probably seemed fine from the outside: She had a circle of friends, an apartment, and was holding down a job in retail and as a fitness instructor.
But she was also wrestling severe depression and anxiety that stemmed from the trauma of the loss of a parent when she was a child. She was nearly unable to get out of bed let alone do well at work, she was facing eviction from her home, and she wasn’t taking care of herself.
The bottled-up feelings of despair became overwhelming and quickly pushed her to the brink. She wanted to end her life.
“I had really struggled and worked hard to keep things under wraps,” said Baird. “But I felt completely broken.”
For many, calling 911 or going to the hospital might seem like the only options in this situation. Instead, Baird and her family doctor reached out to the Gerstein Crisis Centre, a 24/7 support community and mobile team in Toronto for people experiencing addiction and mental health crises. It’s one of the only programs of its kind in Canada. They aren’t cops, doctors, or social workers. They’re trained in nonviolent de-escalation to help people find solutions in moments of peril and beyond. Many Gerstein staff are survivors themselves, peers who understand emotional crises firsthand.
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