Roy’s not what you might expect of someone who works to bring comfort to the acutely ill and dying and their families. Youthful and even hip, he’s been a chaplain for people living with HIV/AIDS, a spiritual care clinician for acutely mentally ill patients and their families at the Nova Scotia Hospital, and now works as a bereavement counsellor for Capital Health.

Roy didn’t always want to be a healer. At the age of 26, in Thunder Bay, he wanted to see a psychotherapist for his depression and anxiety. His mother told him he should see a chaplain instead, so he started working with Hugh Walker, a “white guy”, Roy says, who was schooled in Ojibway Cree spiritual practices. At the end of a year, Walker told him, “You could do what I do.”

At the time, Roy says, he laughed. “I wanted to be a rock star,” he remembers.

But a few years later he started training with Walker while he was attending Laurier University to study religion and culture, and  then completing a Masters of Divinity at Queens University. His came to Nova Scotia for his first job as a chaplain and has been working in spiritual care ever since.

Roy has learned about several healing modalities, from motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural therapy to narrative therapy, which he finds a powerful tool to help people who are sad and grieving reframe their life stories. He finds his work exciting, even pleasurable, though he doesn’t always have the reward of seeing his clients feel better. “In the work of therapy,” he says, ‘you don’t always get to see the end result.”

"There’s a lot to be said for being happy in the present."

It’s not that he expects people to change dramatically in a short period of time. Even though he feels the system that is supposed to support people in crisis is geared toward the “quick fix” he says the people he’s seen who have the most healing may be in therapy for two to five years. Instead of trying to change people, he says, he likes to think he helps people more with “the crucial goals of self-acceptance and self-respect. There’s a lot to be said for being happy in the present,” he says.

"In mistakes and vulnerability we shine the brightest."

And he’s practicing what he preaches. “I’ve kind of made friends with [my] depression and anxiety,” says Roy. When he’s feeling anxious, he says, he knows he needs to slow, to stop and reflect, and journal. He sees these states as reminders of his own humanity.

"In mistakes and vulnerability we shine the brightest,” he says.

 About Anna Quon

Anna is an accomplished freelance/creative writer and writing workshop facilitator. She lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  She is passionate about many things, especially writing. It is through her writing, and her volunteer work with community organizations, that Anna honours the lives of people who, like her, are living with mental illness.

In 2008, Anna received the Inspiring Lives Award from the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. In 2009, Anna published her first novel titled Migration Songs which was short listed for the Dartmouth Book Award.

Visit Anna's website.