Nicole Acaso

My name is Nicole and this is my Michael Garron Hospital story. My story is about personal triumph and finding yourself. A couple of years ago I started feeling anxious and scared and I just didn't want to go to school anymore and I didn't want to interact with my friends so I started avoiding my education.

My name is Krista Lemke. I'm a child and adolescent psychiatrist and I was Nicole's doctor during her stay at the Building Bridges Day Treatment Program. By the time she was referred to us she'd been out of school for many months.

 I started to realize that it was getting out of control when I was feeling very depressed and I couldn't even leave my house to go to school. I started seeing a therapist and the guidance counsellor at my school. They recommended the Building Bridges Program.

The Building Bridges Program is a collaboration between the hospital and the Toronto Catholic District School Board. It's one of the only programs of its kind to focus specifically on the needs of youth who have become seriously school avoidant due to mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression.

 When I first started the program I was very scared because I wasn't attending school before that and I was really nervous because I was afraid that I wasn't going to be able to do this program and I thought that this program was my last chance.

 My first goal when I meet a young person in this situation is to allow them to see that there is hope and allow them to reflect on how they would like their lives to be if they were no longer trapped by anxiety and depression and then together we look at what it might take for them to get there.

 The team at the program was very helpful and very understanding and the students who were in the program with me were very friendly and you just didn't feel judged or you didn't have to hide the fact that you had a mental health issue. You could just be open with everyone.

 One of the most rewarding elements of this work is watching some of these youth come from a position of having a life bounded by the four walls of their room to discovering themselves, discovering their talents, realizing that learning can be fun and beginning to venture out into a world that is full of limitless opportunities for them.

Since Building Bridges, I've graduated from high school which I thought was never going to happen because of my anxiety and I’ve also found a love for film. I’ve actually made a short film about stopping the stigma for mental health issues and I'm pretty proud of it because it shows that mental health isn’t something to be scared of or to hide away from. I am so thankful for this program. Honestly, when I look back at my life I can't even imagine what would happen if I was never in the Building Bridges Program because I think that this program was the key to my recovery.

To support vital programs for youth in our community, make a donation today. Your donation will fund programs just like the Building Bridges.

Contact Charlie Borg at or 416-469-6580 Ext. 6190 if you would like to share your grateful patient story.