Carleton Master’s Sociology Student to Receive Royal Ottawa Award for Mental Health Work
Charlotte Smith, a Carleton University master’s student in Sociology, has faced overwhelming challenges throughout her life: childhood sexual abuse, homelessness, incarceration, drug dependency.
Undaunted, she has channelled these experiences into her academic, advocacy and activist work, developing research projects to address youth homelessness, creating a bursary to help homeless youth attend Carleton, and delivering food, phones and other essential items to homeless and precariously housed youth who are struggling during the pandemic.
For these actions, and for sharing her story of recovery to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness, Smith will be awarded the Personal Leader for Mental Health award at the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health’s 2021 Inspiration Awards.
“It can be re-traumatizing, embarrassing and awkward talking so publicly about your mental health and substance use issues, so it’s comforting when someone tells you that you’re not just oversharing, you’re actually making a small difference in other people’s lives,” says Smith, who will be joined on the Inspiration Awards virtual podium by Carleton President Benoit-Antoine Bacon, winner of the Royal’s Transformational Leader award.
“Getting an award like this is fantastic, but there are so many people doing so much important work on mental health and substance use,” says Smith, who last year won a Community Builder Award from the United Way East Ontario for her volunteer efforts in COVID times.
“I feel more than a tad guilty accepting this award when so many of my friends, colleagues and community members are working tirelessly in the same areas.
“More than anything, winning this award is a testament to my support network. I’m like rusty car that breaks down often: without endless help and encouragement from my friends, supporters and allies I’d still be in the ditch. Just because I talk about mental health and substance use doesn’t mean that I no longer struggle with these issues, but it does mean I’m being held up by a lot of people who aren’t getting awards for the work they’re doing. I hope if these people see my work being recognized, they’ll know that it is as much because of them as me.”