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Marystown mother Aaliyah Ryan encouraging others to open up about mental health

Aaliyah Ryan is looking forward to completing the ABE program at Keyin College in Marystown and moving on to the next chapter in her story.
Aaliyah Ryan is looking forward to completing the ABE program at Keyin College in Marystown and moving on to the next chapter in her story. - Colin Farrell

Aaliyah Ryan is using her past to create a brighter future

MARYSTOWN, N.L.

Aaliyah Ryan doesn’t see negative events of her past as a roadblock, rather a stepping stone that’s led to today.

A student in the Adult Basic Education program at Keyin College in Marystown, Ryan had her first battle with depression at 16. She’d continue to fight that demon until turning 18, after she learned she was pregnant.

She says knowing she was having a baby “gave me a purpose in life, made me feel like there was a reason I was here.”

Ryan was among those who attended a mental health wellness day event at the college Oct. 4.

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A discussion on postpartum depression, given by Eastern Health counselor Diane Dunphy, hit close to home for Ryan.

“When I had my son, it was supposed to be a really rewarding time for me and a happy time, but it really wasn’t, it was more of a hard time…”

Ryan had only been enrolled in the school for two months when she gave birth to her son. Premature, at just seven months to term, “he weighed 1-lb. 11-oz.”

She spent four months in St. John’s while her son was a patient in the neonatal intensive care unit at Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre.

Ryan returned to school a month following her son’s release from hospital and is now completing her Level III. She plans to enroll in the Youth and Child Care Worker program at the college and hopes to use her experience to help others.

“I went through a lot of issues in my life and I’ve overcome a lot of obstacles that no person should ever have to go through,” she told The Southern Gazette recently. “At the age of seven I was put in foster care, and I stayed for a year – again when I was nine I went to another foster home. I was there for…it wasn’t quite a year and then when I was 12 my mother signed me over to the court system, so me and my family don’t have a great relationship.”

Ryan was transferred to the former T.J. McDonald Achievement Home in Burin, where she spent three and a half years, until it closed in August, 2014.

“Once they closed down, Blue Sky Family Care was available, and that’s where I went; when I turned 16-year-old I signed myself out.”

Ryan was employed at the Sobeys store in Marystown, and attending high school when she first developed mental health issues.

“I started to become very depressed, and not being able to get up in the morning like I was able to before,” she explained. “Things were just taking a really big toll on me, so I ended up giving up my schooling, giving up my job…”

She says in her youth she sought out help dealing with her depression, but never truly felt like anything had been resolved.

“It was all fresh in my memory and in my mind,” she said. “It was playing in my head back and forth.”

She added it is easier now to have a conversation about mental health issues, than in the past.

“People have a lot more understanding and awareness towards mental health now and I feel that is a very good thing.”

Colin.farrell@southerngazette.ca

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