“Hi, my name is Irish Northup and I want to share my success story with the JHS community.

When I started with the John Howard Society I was 325 pounds. I suffered major anxiety and wouldn’t leave my house. I lived with an abusive boyfriend who was not giving me my medication properly or allowing me to eat. I did not attend doctors’ appointments and I didn’t know how to wash or shower as I had a severe fear of water.

I want to talk about my mental health; I am schizophrenic. I feel bullied all the time and have had voices that talk to me since I was a child, but with my medication I am very stable, and the voices leave me alone. When I started with JHS outreach, I felt like I was possessed by the devil, but my outreach helped me, and I am grateful. My outreach worker, Robin, looked for support for me, which led me to go to CRESST Mental Health. I was so sick that I thought about harming others, I pooped on the floor, and I trusted nobody from there. I was labelled aggressive which I am not, I am just very forward. I was then admitted to Surrey Memorial Hospital psychiatric where I stayed for 4 months until I was stable and my outreach worker was able to find a Home Share for me to move into. Robin advocated for me in every way, and I was able to trust her when I trusted no one.

Never give up on your dreams and goals, the sky is the limit and I know this from experience.

Robin taught me how to wash my face, she got me to leave my home, and took me to see the psychiatrist to get the help I needed. I have had many goals through my two years with the John Howard Society and I have completed all of them with the help of outreach.

Never give up on your dreams and goals, the sky is the limit and I know this from experience.

Today I take the bus alone, I have lost 160 pounds, I have a job where I deliver newspapers on my own. I am also in gymnastics and of recent I have won four medals; 1st place, 2nd place, and two 3rd place metals. I attend my doctors’ appointments regularly, I have great savings, good hygiene, and quit smoking. I used to smoke three packs a day, and now I am a proud vapour. This was all with the help of my outreach support. I also attend music with all my friends and I am into social groups and attend a cooking class. I am fully independent and can be left home alone. Robin helped me find a loving family whom I called mom and dad and I love them so much.

I would recommend the John Howard Society’s Outreach Services to anyone needing support and hope that they would take the knowledge of the workers and use it to their benefit because look at me, I am successful, I am strong, I am independent, and I am free. Most of all, I am grateful. I am independent and strong enough to manage on my own. I would like to thank the organization for bringing outreach into my life and for the program, it has given me so much hope and I hope it does the same for many others, thank you guys.”

Irish

When Irish’s JHS outreach worker Robin began working with her in March 2017, Irish wouldn’t open her front door. Suffering from major anxiety, Irish would peek out her door and tell Robin to go away. During this time, Robin set Irish up with Facebook Messenger, and sent her a message each morning. Having not heard back from Irish after a month of sending daily messages, Robin cut back on her communications to her. It was then that Irish began to engage with Robin, and started to lead the conversation. As they built trust, Irish became comfortable inviting Robin into her home and allowing her to assist her in getting to important appointments. They worked together build her capacity to live independently and access the services and supports she needed.

In addition to her newspaper route, Irish also has two other jobs; employment that she gained herself. She spends ample time with friends and loved ones, and is actively engaged in her community. She has won several medals in gymnastics, which is leading her to compete in the Special Olympics Championship Games. She is in a healthy relationship now and attends her doctors’ appointments alone. Her medications have been scaled back significantly, and her schizophrenia is under control.

“Everything about Irish is the complete opposite from when I met her. She lost nearly 200 pounds throughout her journey. Irish used to have high cholesterol, she wasn’t eating or showering… she didn’t know how to clean her face and had a deep fear of water. She was in an aggressive relationship and didn’t feel safe at home. Now, Irish is a self advocate. Where as she would never speak before, now she has no problem voicing her needs and advocating for her rights.

I am so proud of Irish and how far she has come. While outreach has been there to assist and advocate for her, she’s ultimately the one who has led the way in terms of identifying and achieving her goals; we were just here to offer the tools and assistance needed to get there. When I look at the progress that Irish has made in her life, and the goals she continuously sets for herself and achieves, it really is the reason I do what I do. She is so proud of herself, and she wants people to see what she’s accomplished with the assistance of outreach so that others know these support systems are out there to help them. To her, outreach is everything. It’s what’s gotten her to where she is now. She always wants to give hope to other people.”

Robin, JHS outreach worker

When Adam, another JHS outreach service user, found out that Irish’s story would be shared in our annual report, he wanted to share a message about his experience getting to know Irish through the program:

“I appreciate the fact that we’re buddies, that we both have a lot in common, and how respectful Irish is. Irish has an amazing heart and I enjoy her company. Irish never judges anybody about who they are. Thank you for being a good friend.”

Adam, JHS outreach service user