Patrick Vaillancourt, a social media influencer, was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in 2015 while he was working in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Originally from Toronto, he entered the Forces at 17 years old, and said he was broken down and built back up in a way that was unfamiliar to him.
He was exhibiting drastic moodswings, sleep deprivation, was always angry, would cancel plans and isolated himself, and was lacking motivation.
It got to the point where his friend in the Forces told him it was time to get help, to this day he is very thankful for the push. “He is my guardian angel, he saved my life,” Vaillancourt said.
He received counselling through the Toronto Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC), an organization he volunteered with when he was younger, and the help was effective.
He was able to work himself back into the military system, but after counselling there was no follow-up from the MFRC and he was left to his own devices to deal with the depression.
Vaillancourt said in the military, he didn’t have a voice, there was a chain of command and his opinions didn’t matter, which is very unnatural for his personality. He likes to engage with people, have discussions and share ideas. His mom always tells a story of when he was in Grade 1. Before his teacher had a chance to ask how everyone’s week had been, Vaillancourt already had his hand in the air.
He dealt with depression and anxiety through physical activity, especially biking, which is a passion of his.
With his love of biking, he decided to make some extra cash as an Uber Eats delivery person. Shortly after he started his new cycling gig, he was sideswiped in the downtown core of Toronto in a hit and run. This triggered a downward spiral of anxiety and depression and Vaillancourt feared to leave his apartment. Through assessments with health professionals after the crash, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
He never felt ashamed of his diagnosis, and found it therapeutic to talk about it. He started posting videos on Instagram of the good, bad and in between he was feeling each day.
It didn’t matter if only five people saw it, he felt a sense of power, being able to take control of a part of his life, that he felt had been suppressed for so long.
“I wasn’t looking for validation, I was looking for a voice I never had,” Vaillancourt explained.
He began receiving comments and direct messages, from new followers telling him it was nice to know that they were not alone. It’s a small and simplistic concept, but he said realizing you’re not alone is what mental health is about. His following started to grow, especially during the Instagram “Here For You” campaign for mental health awareness.
After seven years in the military and at a time when he felt his mental health deteriorating, he decided move to Victoria to be closer to his mother. It works for him, it’s calm and “one of the best places in the world,” he said, adding it’s helped his mental well-being.
He’s now a full time YouTuber, with more than 130,000 followers over five social media platforms.
His YouTube videos, which he calls his journal, are the most productive coping method he has used in dealing with PTSD, because it’s a safe practice and he can express himself creatively. And he tries to reply to everyone who messages him to create a community that helps one another.
Vaillancourt wants to spread the message that it’s important that people talk about mental health in school, career environments and personal lives so they feel comfortable with who they are and have good self-awareness to seek help if they need it.
He recommends Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) which is a program to increase awareness and decrease stigma of mental health disorders.