Debbie Sesula Receives the Courage to Come Back Award

Courage to Come Back Winner, Debbie Sesula

Congratulations to longstanding CMHA volunteer and Past President of CMHA White Rock Branch, Debbie Sesula, who has been named as the 2008 Courage To Come Back Award recipient in the Mental Health category. Each year, Coast Mental Health honours six people for their courage to overcome and recover from illness, injury or adversity. Debbie will receive her award May 8, at a gala dinner at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Vancouver.

Debbie first began suffering frightening symptoms while nearing completion of her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. A very outgoing and bubbly person, she became withdrawn, depressed and scared, obsessed with ending her life. Struggling daily to complete her education and “be normal” Debbie began to inflict tiny scratches on herself to ease her emotional pain. Good days were followed by bad days – she found herself losing touch with reality, once hearing cars telling her to end her life. Finally, she attempted suicide. A year-long cycle of hospitalization, medication, release, re-hospitalization, and new medications began. Debbie decided to fight the illness, the depression anxiety and psychosis, and refused to give in. She challenged all her symptoms one by one and graduated with her degree. The fight was far from over. Debbie would land a job, only to quit it, convinced the staff were “after her.” She enrolled in an employment program and learned computer skills, all the while increasing her self-harming. Eventually, through the help of a counselor, Debbie gained control over her self harm. She learned new ways to cope with her feelings, to challenge her thoughts, and gradually gained control over mental illness instead of letting it control her. She obtained her Reality Therapy Certification and later developed a program to teach others how to take control of their own recovery – a program that has been consistently running, with a waiting list, since 2002. “I am extremely grateful to Coast for recognizing the positive aspects and contributions of people facing adversities,” Debbie says. To others who are struggling, “Don’t give up on yourself. There is help, there is hope – reach out!” Debbie has overcome her illness with flying colours and stands as a beacon of hope to others facing similar struggles. She is currently the Coordinator of the Peer Support Programs at Vancouver Community Mental Health Services and Fraser South Health; Provincial Coordinator of BRIDGES Support and Education Program through BC Schizophrenia Society; a WRAP recovery-oriented program Facilitator; and she teaches Consumers In Action, a leadership skills training program. If that were not enough, Debbie was recently accepted into the Masters in Leadership program at Royal Roads University. Photo credit: Jason Payne, The Province
For more on Debbie’s remarkable journey, read “How to battle a broken brain,” at
To learn more about the Courage to Come Back Awards, visit

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