Returning to school and being financially strapped can be stressful for any student, let alone a man who struggled with psychosis.
But for Matthew Alcott, it was one of the best things he could have done.
“It was difficult,” said the 31-year-old, who will complete the child, youth with addictions program at Eastern Academy next year.
“It took a year after my last psychosis experience to get back into school, but it was the right decision. It’s therapeutic.
“I have more confidence in myself now. … I feel like I’m going in the right direction now. Whereas before, I was kind of aimless.”
Alcott — who suffered three psychosis episodes between the ages of 25 and 27 — spoke of his experience during an event at the College of the North Atlantic, where it was announced Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) would partner with the Health Care Foundation and Eastern Health to provide educational opportunities to young adults living with a mental illness and/or addiction through the Health Care Foundation’s Moving Lives Forward Bursary Program.
RBC will provide the program with $45,000 worth of bursaries a year to individuals who have received services through Eastern Health’s mental health and addictions programs.
Alcott — who received a grant through the program in 2016 — said the financial support was a huge help to him and helped alleviate that burden.
“Though it may seem small in the big scheme of things,” he told the crowd, “obtaining a scholarship may be the first step for many on the road to recovery.”
When asked by reporters for his advice to others facing some of the same challenges he did and who want to turn their lives around, he said, “Just take one step, whatever step that is, if you feel it’s in the right direction … and it kind of snowballs from there. That’s what happened to me.”
Alcott, who is originally from Labrador, moved to St. John’s 10 years ago.
“I decided to go back to school and from then (on), I knew intrinsically what to do next because I just took that one step.”
Other speakers at the event included Debbie Patten, Health Care Foundation board of directors chairwoman; Colin Krulicki, RBC regional vice-president, Newfoundland and Labrador; Gary Tulk, the College of the North Atlantic’s vice-president of industry and community engagement; and Krista Wade, the bursary program’s chairwoman.
“I’ve certainly seen the impact (the program) has had on the lives of many young people,” Wade said during her address. “We know this (partnership with RBC) will help (them) move their lives forward.”