who’s talking

speak up.


The following poems, ballads, videos and music are real stories from people who have had stigma, mental illness or addictions directly impact their lives. Thank you to all of those who have spoke out and shared their journey with us.


add your voice.

who’s talking




Trying to escape
Trying to hide
I lost myself
To my wreckless side
I ran and ran
Tried hard not to admit it
Knowing I’d face
The truth any minute
Time keeps going by
And the nights filled with lies
Unexpected, unpredictable
I see it in my eyes
I turned quickly
hoping not to see
the ugly reflection
that turned into me
I tried to avoid it
And pretend it wasn’t true
I knew all along
And so did you
You didn’t stop me
When you could
You’re the only person
That ever would
Moving on
Forgetting the past
I never thought
It would last
By: Leslie, Youth leader in Midland

I Lost Myself To drugs


All I wanted was to fit in
But I didn’t, maybe it was my looks or colour of skin
All I wanted was a friend
But I followed the wrong trend
All I wanted was some more fun
But now I’m on the run
Nothing but black top under my feet
While I live on and wander the streets
How did I get here so far from home?
With nothing to call my own
I sell my soul to make a buck
I don’t care about pressing my luck
They wanted fun with drugs and booze
But I’m the on with everything to loose
Drugs and booze took over my life
That’s why I took up over my life




We grow through our experiences and learn through our mistakes. I am happy to have also had the opportunity to grow and learn so much about myself through the UP Project. I have truly grown up and have had so many chances I didn’t know I would have. I feel lucky to have had my voice heard and be able to support others walk calmly down paths I may have stumbled on.
– Sara, Barrie Youth Leader




As a teenager I have faced so many up’s and down’s in my life and have had many thoughts of suicide. Then I realized if something isn’t going how you want it… make it. “Be the change” and make a difference. Ever since then “be the change” is something I live by.


When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place!


My name is Melissa Frenette Talaga, and I am a 17 year old Alcona UP project youth leader. I recently moved to Alcona. I used to live in Richmond Hill, which were way different conditions than living here in Innisfil. I had a city bus at the end of my street, and always had somewhere to go, people to see, activities to do. When I moved here, there was nothing. Nowhere to go, nothing to do, everyone was to far to see. This is why I joined the UP project. Even though I hadn’t started experimenting as a way to keep myself entertained, it came to my attention, that it’s what people were doing here because they had nothing else to do. My friend who was part of the UP project already brought to my attention that she was working on changing all that, she was trying to bring transportation and activities here, so that drugs and alcohol wouldn’t be our only resort. I joined the UP project in august, and I hope to continue with them until things have changed.




“Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got”
– Janis Joplin




Hi, my name is Ryan and I am a youth leader at Nottawasaga Pines Secondary School in Angus. I joined the UP project because I hate watching people suffer and feel like there are no other options. I feel by joining this program I will help my friends and peers overcome their fears and see that there are other paths to take. I also joined this project to not only educate other people but to educate myself. One of the most important reasons why I joined this group was to help parents see things from a teens’ perspective and how the wrong choices could not only affect the relationship with their youth but could also make their problems worse.




“Growing up I was left alone.
But when things got tough instead of
giving up… I simply got stronger!”
SINCE I JOINED THE UP PROJECT… I have become more aware of the services to youth and the amount of help that actually is out there, that they may not have known about. I am new to “UP” however I would like to help out and stay part and help out and give back to the community. When I was growing up I screwed up many times because of no one being there, having the proper support and help needed can change someone’s life. I think that one person can make an impact but a group of us could possibly change the world. Everyone deserves a hand and support when they need it.
– (Ally, Barrie Youth Leader)




“Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.”
“Since joining the UP Project I have gained so much. While sharing my own experiences and opinions I have been able to help put certain youth issues into the spotlight in hopes that we can find resolutions and improve the lives of future children and adolescents in our community. It is a great feeling to know that I am really making a difference in the world around me and that youth’s voices are finally being heard. The positive feedback that we get from people we have presented to is such a confidence boost and it’s just another thing that keeps me going.”
– Megan, Barrie Youth Leader




“Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.”




My name is Madison and I am an Angus Youth Leader for the UP Project. I joined UP to help bring awareness to both adults and youth about the differences in perspectives about drugs and alcohol while recognizing that our judgments and bias can really impact our communication. A message I am trying to express through the project is that there are other things to help with your problems, other than drugs and alcohol; there are people and places that are willing to help you through difficult times.




“Everyone is unique & we need to accept it so we can unite!”
– Ally, Collingwood Youth Leader




“We all struggle sometimes but we can overcome it if we have faith in ourselves”
– Emilija, Collingwood Youth Leader




“Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane, by those who could not hear the music”
– Stephanie




Live as if you’d die tomorrow, and you won’t regret yesterday. Remember you can’t get yesterday back or do it over. Once you’re born, you’re on a time limit. How will you spend your time?
– Jade




“I feel that people sometimes forget to think about how they’ve treated or judged other people. We’re not the same, and we don’t learn/grow/mature at the same rates, but that doesn’t mean that we never will. People deserve second chances because we do learn from experiences, they just take time. I hope this picture makes people reflect on how they treat and/or judge others.”
– Ashley-Belle




Since joining the UP Project, I have gained a lot of confidence in myself. I used to be a shy person, when it came to expressing my feelings, but now I’m able to stand up in front of 300+ppl and tell them my personal story related to mental health & drug use. There was a very low point in my life when I wasn’t in school, I had no home, my family didn’t support me, I had no job and I couldn’t even afford to feed myself…& UP was the only consistent thing in my life; it gave me hope to push forward. I feel amazing knowing that I am contributing to my community just by voicing my opinion & reaching out to youth in positions like I was once in. “UP” in Orillia has gone so far, and I know that we did this, and it’s a great feeling!”
– Monique




Be brave and make your stand. Stay true to yourself. Say no to drugs and peer pressure. You are worth Fighting for!

“Don’t stand in the shadows of others, stand tall and be a leader of your own life”




Live and Learn, I had those experiences with drugs already and I have learned from my mistakes. I know I will never go down that road again because of the bad situations I always seemed to find myself in. I had troubles with family, friends, all my peers, and the law. No respect from the people you love, no respect towards them, and losing all self-respect, wrecking your body. None of this was worth a quick fix for me. It just took me awhile to figure that out.




My whole life people have been trying to tell me what is right for me, what person I am going to become and basically how I should live MY life. No matter what people say you have to believe that you are doing the right thing and be happy with that. There will be many obstacles to your dreams… DREAM ANYWAYS!




“It’s the countless let downs that eventually lead to all smiles and no frowns – My lyrics”




The UP project has really turned my whole life around. In grade ten I started going in the wrong direction and wasn’t being the person I wanted to be. I was using drugs to cope with the stress in my life and used them to fit in. UP has given me the turn around that I needed. I was looking for a way to educate kids so that they wouldn’t make the same mistakes that I did and UP was a perfect fit. I have had a bad relationship with my parents for a long time which lead to me using drugs for the most part. I found a way out and if I can anyone can. The hardest part about everything was talking to my girlfriend about what I had done. I let everyone around me down and I never want to go through that again. The biggest thing that I realized is how much more fun I can have without being under the influence and how much my friends respect my decision. Just remember, it’s never over. many roads are long and lonely find god and find the faith and hope to achieve greatness your family won’t be there for every situation but he will.




“Seize today, because every day is an opportunity for a new start”



“Looking back, Talking about it was the step I needed to take to get me through my anxiety. I wish I had known that then, but the fear of embarrassment, fear of losing my job, fear of humiliation are so strong, it’s hard to start talking about it. Much too often I’d wake up in the middle of the night panicking—my heart pounding, tears in my eyes, I wouldn’t know what to do.”

This was especially true, Shayne says, during the final stage of Paul’s life, when his father, a smoker, battled the throat cancer that killed him in 1993, at age 45. “I was having trouble with my esophagus—it was sore and swollen,” says Shayne, who is a nonsmoker. I kept going for tests in which doctors would put tubes down my throat and up my nose. Even though they didn’t find anything serious, it started to play on my mind. You think, I’m 34. Is what happened to my dad going to happen to me? My teammates still don’t know what went on. No one except my family and a couple close friends knew.”


His teammates did know that in training camp in September 2000 the 6’1″ Corson suffered from a severe bout of ulcerative colitis, a digestive disorder that has plagued him for years. They know that by the start of the last season he’d lost 20 pounds, rendering him pale and weak at 186 Lbs. They know that after missing nearly all the preseason Corson sometimes seemed distracted or was, as one Leaf puts it, “a little off.” They know that Corson, usually at the centre of team gatherings, kept missing players’ dinners and that he stayed in his hotel room a lot.

When Corson talked about his troubles, it was the first time he’d discussed them publicly. He told of the illness that began in his stomach, went to his throat (he also suffers from acid reflux, a condition in which acid from his stomach burbles up into his esophagus, causing severe heartburn) and finally got into his head. “I’d feel like I was having a heart attack,” says Corson. “It was like everything was coming down on me at once. I didn’t want to be away from home; I didn’t want to be in crowds. It fed on itself, you know? The more scared I got, the more guilty I felt about being scared—I wanted to be strong! But it was so hard to be strong. Part of it was dealing with my dad’s death, too. I cried for two weeks when he died, but that was it. I never really processed it.


“It’s the sort of thing you hear about, people having anxiety attacks and panic attacks, and you think it could never happen to you. But it does, and it takes over your life. If there’s any advice I can give now, it’s not to be embarrassed and talk to someone, a friend, family member or even a support line. I was fortunate to have Armando Russo (longtime friend and business partner) there to talk to on many occasions.”


Corson continues by stating that talking about his situation with others really helped him out.

“I also had Doctor Shaw and Doctor Abels who I started talking to near the end of my career and continued to help me after I had retired. Most people that don’t really understand depression and anxiety think I was strong enough to get through it on my own. Nothing could be farther from the truth.”

-Shayne Corson (former NHL Hockey Player)




By the students at Nantyr Shores Secondary School

Our grade 11 media arts class created a variety of different personas to answer the question: why do kids choose to abuse drugs and alcohol? This is the shortened version. Created by 24 students, here is the result.

add your voice

If you have a poem, song, video or story that you would like to share with us, please send it to us at hello@starttalking.ca.