Homelessness, Addiction, Mental Illness: It can happen to anyone

Homelessness, Addiction, Mental Illness: It can happen to anyone


Syed is relatively new to Welland and he loves the small town feel of it. “Everything I need is right here, what more is there?” he says. He lived most of his life in Toronto, and how he came to call Welland home is a poignant story.

Syed has a background in psychiatric nursing and after graduating from Humber College, he made his way to Toronto, working in the Emergency department at one of the hospitals, while also leading an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team full time. He was wildly successful and enjoyed living “the high life”. For most of his life, Syed has suffered from bipolar disorder, a hereditary illness passed down from his mother. He managed it fairly well until about five years ago when he had to stop taking his medication due to complications with his liver. It was then that he began to suffer manic periods with extreme highs and severe lows coupled with psychotic and major depressive episodes. In an effort to cope, he turned to alcohol and cocaine, and quickly found himself on a downward spiral. Before long, he was in and out of the hospitals where he himself had worked, but this time as a patient.

Gambling brought him to Niagara Falls where he lived in a motel, spending all of his hard earned money on feeding his addictions. It was at this motel where he hit rock bottom. He describes with candour an attempt to ‘get clean’ on his own; suffering hallucinations and delirious tremors, he called the police claiming he had been shot. Emergency services arrived to find Syed hiding in his room hallucinating. They brought him to the hospital where he stayed for a month, before being transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Port Colborne. It was during his stay there that he was introduced to The Hope Centre in Welland.

“It lives up to its name because it really did give me hope” he says. He’s been working with Camille, his counselor and “saviour” for the last eight months. She found him proper housing and stability for the first time in a long time. With her support and guidance, he has found many positive ways of coping with his illness such as proper rest, some medication, painting and even volunteering at The Hope Centre. He spends three days a week in the kitchen with Gina, where he is able to help people who are just like he was not so long ago. Syed has a unique outlook on life now; he understands how easy it is to give in to the power of addiction, “It really can happen to anybody” he says. His dream is to open a recovery house that focuses on really lifting people up and giving them a spiritual connection, something he has found to be of great help in his own recovery.

“I am deeply humbled by my own experiences,” Syed shares gently, “Never take what you have for granted, because it can be gone in an instant.”