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Courage To Come Back: Mental Health recipient wants to give stigma the knockout punch

Last Updated Apr 4, 2018 at 12:55 pm PST

Rachel Fehr is the 2017 Courage To Come Back winner in the Mental Health category. (John Ackermann, NEWS 1130 Photo)

NEWS 1130 profiles winner in the Mental Health category ahead of Courage to Come Back Awards

Local woman details a childhood of bullying as she's recognized for turning her life around

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – She always knew she was different and she suffered for it every day. Today, Rachel Fehr helps kids stand up to bullies. NEWS 1130‘s series of Courage To Come Back profiles continues with a look at the winner in the Mental Health category.

“I was the kid that got picked on every day. The one without friends,” Fehr admits. She was bullied from the age of seven and first started taking medication for depression when she was 13. By age 18, she was in a psych ward, but she could never get the help she needed. It wasn’t until her late 20s when she was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

“The problem is, if you go into the psychiatric unit at the hospital, and you tell them that you want to get better, they can’t keep you in hospital to give you the proper help,” she explains. “You have to convince them that you’re either a danger to yourself or a danger to others.”

So she staged a very public suicide attempt. One that perhaps worked a little too well. “It was so realistic that it actually impeded my progress and getting my children back from the ministry. I had everybody very, very convinced.”

Today, Fehr runs the Smiling Tigers, a youth group that meets in a Surrey gym to learn the ways of jiu-jitsu fighting. “Training in jiu-jitsu allowed me to end the regular beatings that I received as a kid.”

Now she wants to empower kids the same way the martial arts empowered her. “Just knowing that I know I could defend myself, it ended a lot of that bullying for me. And when kids who get bullied start to stand up for themselves, these bullies start to go, ‘Oh, maybe I shouldn’t pick on someone because the next person might actually kick the crap out of me!’ I don’t want other kids and teens facing similar issues that I faced,” she adds. “To have to get to the point that I got to. There’s no need for it. They just need someone to believe in them and give them a space where they can be themselves without judgement, without fear.”

Thanks to jiu-jitsu and Dialectical Behavior Therapy, she has a fighting chance at a better life. “Even now, even as far as I’ve come, I still doubt myself,” she says. “And I’m still… in a little bit of shock. It hasn’t quite sunk in that I’ve actually won.”

But she has won. Now she just wants to give back. “Honestly, I think I get more out of it than the kids who come through my doors. It reminds me every day to be grateful for what I have.”

NEWS 1130 is a proud sponsor of the Coast Mental Health Courage To Come Back awards, which will be handed out Tuesday May 16th at the Vancouver Convention Centre.