One Year Later: Keith MacIsaac
Keith MacIsaac was the inaugural recipient of the Medavie Scholarship honouring Pierre-Yves Julien, a first year student in the therapeutic recreation program at Dalhousie University in Halifax, and a member of Laing House, a peer support organization for youth living with mental illness. For Keith, receiving this scholarship meant he could continue his schooling without having to worry about his financial situation, giving him more time to focus on his studies and his mental health. Now, a year later, he is thriving academically and has the tools to manage his mental health.
Sitting in a café in Halifax on a sunny morning, Keith radiates contentment and calmness as he speaks about his life and upcoming plans. Entering his second year of the therapeutic recreation program at Dalhousie University, Keith has a clear mind and distinct vision for his life moving forward – a far cry from his outlook a few years ago.
“People who knew me then wouldn’t recognize me now,” says Keith. “I now perform at a higher level academically, and have the tools lined up to care for myself. I’m now looking more than two to three days ahead and making five or ten-year plans, something I never thought possible a few years ago.”
One of those plans is pursuing a master’s degree in occupational therapy upon completion of the therapeutic recreation program.
“The more I’ve researched occupational therapy, the more I think it would be the right path for me,” says Keith. “In addition to better job prospects, it seems to be the perfect mix of social work, recreation, and physio.”
He said he found his first year in the therapeutic recreation program enlightening, as he studied different forms of leisure and the use of recreation as a form of therapy.
“What makes this field of study so interesting is how leisure and recreation are so subjective. For example, while someone’s favourite activity may be jogging, others may dread even the thought of that activity and prefer to play a musical instrument, it’s different for everybody.”
Laing House played a significant role in Keith’s road to recovery, so it’s important for him to remain involved. He continues to be a part of their Youth Speak programs and was the speaker at the 2018 Laing House Masquerade Ball, an event that aims to unmask the stigma of mental health while raising funds for Laing House.
“I’m always happy to share my story with others and hopefully help someone who is struggling,” says Keith. “It’s important to give back, but I also find that speaking about my personal experience with mental illness is therapeutic for me as well.”
He can’t stress enough the importance of places such as Laing House.
“One of the best parts about Laing House is coming in and seeing people at different stages of recovery,” remarks Keith. “If you’re a newcomer, you gain hope seeing those who are recovering and those who have succeeded. Even once people have integrated back into the community, they stay in touch and always come back because of the connections they’ve made there.”
Keith is conscious of the life experiences he’s developed from struggling with mental illness to becoming a working professional, experiences he believes will only benefit him as he enters the workforce.
“I’m just so excited to have the ability to reach my potential,” says Keith with a smile. “My goals keep getting bigger as I reach the smaller ones I had set. Now I just keep wanting more.”
For Keith, the sky is the limit.