The Only Mental Health Peer-Run Organization

in Santa Cruz, CA

In fall 2019 I graduated college and quickly found myself struggling with my mental health as Covid overtook the world. My anxiety, my PTSD and my depression skyrocketed and covid precautions left me feeling lonely and despondent. Much of my family was struggling as well, and after intense family issues I attempted suicide. A combination of pandemic loneliness, anxiety and fear left me hospitalized with a broken body after an unsuccessful suicide attempt. My injuries were extensive and numerous and everyone said I was very lucky to have lived. I didn’t feel lucky. I had survived and every day that passed in my newly broken body triggered the urges to harm myself. I had thirty staples in my head, a piece of my scalp was gone, both wrists were broken, two ribs broken, three vertebrae, my neck was broken and my teeth were smashed. I was no longer actively suicidal but I woke up every morning wishing I had died and hadn’t been given this second chance at life.

The road to physical recovery has been difficult but finding emotional stability and battling severe PTSD has been far a more daunting undertaking. My life was in shambles and despite having a B.A. my broken body and spirit prevented me from finding gainful employment. I was experiencing extreme poverty as well as housing and food insecurity. In early 2021 I made the decision to change my life, left a toxic relationship and returned to my home town of Santa Cruz to live with family. 

Once home in Santa Cruz, I learned about MHCAN from a family member. I was greeted with open arms and quickly felt safe and accepted among my peers. I was able to be around people who understood the hell I had escaped from and who understood the breadth of my battle. I joined a community which celebrated that we are all different with different capabilities and capacities. This space has been essential to my emotional and mental health recovery. I have been given the space and support to flourish and I’m finally healing.

When I wake up in the morning, I no longer wish I had died. Not only am I no longer actively suicidal, I am grateful for the opportunity to live again.  I enjoy so many things now and my life is no longer run by fear. I feel able to manage, I feel like I can trust myself, and I no longer have any thoughts to harm myself. As a survivor of DV and assault it is often very hard to feel safe and my PTSD makes it much harder. MHCAN has become a safe place for me to regain my confidence as well as give back to the community.

I really struggled with suicidal impulses after I was assaulted in 2016. I received services with VOC and began working on the PTSD I was left with. This year, after years of therapy and battling impulses to self harm, I no longer feel controlled by my trauma. My PTSD feels manageable and I finally feel not just “okay” but “good.” MHCAN provided the space for me to move past a mental health condition which had not only removed me from the workforce but which I thought would be a debilitating and lifelong condition.

Lily's Story