Welcome to our annual Mental Health Awareness series where we proudly introduce you to Vale employees who courageously share their own personal struggles. In speaking their truths, these champions of mental health wellness give us the invaluable gifts of comfort (we are not alone), education (get the help we need) and strength (quash the stigma). In this story you will meet Cody Strowbridge, Maintenance planner at our operations in Long Harbour, NL. Please read on…
Cody believes in paying it forward. That’s why he’s made it clear to his colleagues that he is always available as a sounding board. He said it’s likely he wouldn’t be here today had friends, family, colleagues and professionals not been there for him six years ago.
It’s so beneficial to connect with others who battle anxiety, depression and other mental health struggles.
While Cody had struggled with anxiety and depression in silence for as long as he can remember, it was six years ago, around the birth of his first child, that his emotions reached a boiling point. “I was angry all the time. I was constantly on edge,” he recalled.
Cody came to the realization that his wife was bearing the brunt of his frustrations, and knew it was up to him to change things.
Getting professional help
“I sat down with a therapist and discussed what was happening in my life and why I felt the way I did. It turned out that there had been some stuff from my childhood that I didn’t think mattered at the time, but it actually did matter because I could still remember those things. It was explained to me that if those experiences didn’t matter, I wouldn’t remember them.”
Cody said that his anxiety worsened for a while after he sought help because he had to face the past in order to get better. Today, he said, “I’m learning to let go of things that are not in my control. Not necessarily to forgive and forget, but to cope by letting go of the things that don’t affect my day-to-day life.”
Cody and his wife now have two children and, he said, “she has forgiven me for that person I had been,” adding, “I’m still learning to forgive myself.”
He said that he will always have to be vigilant about taking care of his mental health, and that there have been setbacks. “COVID-19 had a huge impact on my anxiety. I got very overwhelmed.” In fact, he said, it got to the point where he thought he might have to quit his job. But then he took a critical step: he approached his manager about his mental health struggles, and how he was feeling.
Getting support from Vale
His manager told him that this is exactly what Vale’s short-term disability program is for. “My manager said, ‘Cody, take some time to think about how you’re feeling and what’s going on. You need time to ground yourself. In a couple days I’ll reach out to see how you’re doing.’”
While the reason for Cody’s absence was confidential, he decided not to keep it that way. While on leave, he would still occasionally dial in to meetings with his crew. At one meeting, the conversation turned to mental health and the pandemic. Later that day, “I started typing. I wrote about what I was going through, and I sent it to my coworkers. I wrote that it was OK if you’re feeling overwhelmed, too. Don’t be afraid to talk about it.”
The response was incredible. “I’ve had several people from my own department and other departments on site reach out to tell me how they were feeling, and to ask if I had any suggestions on coping.”
To further help others and himself, Cody has joined the NL Mental Health Working Group. “We have bi-weekly meetings to talk about what we can do within Vale to show our support to the rest of our peers and coworkers,” he said.
“I’ve learned over the last six years that it’s so beneficial to connect with others who battle anxiety and depression and other mental health struggles. Sometimes a page in someone else’s story is the same as mine.”16