Pamela O’Neill

Pamela O’Neill is a bestselling author and mental health coach from Ontario, Canada. 

She tells us that, “Writing is my art, and working in mental health is my purpose. I recently combined the two with the release of my first book called “Speaking UP About a Mental Health Crisis”.  My mission is to help end the stigma of mental health worldwide. I want to normalize talking about mental health so no one has to feel alone like I once did. 

I plan to write more books and travel abroad sharing my message.”

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative. 

In October 2023 on the shores of my hometown is where I became a bestselling author. It was the most exhilarating feeling. At that moment, my life came full circle. 

I am from a gold mining town in northwestern Ontario, Canada, called Red Lake. Growing up in a small community (population approx. 5,000) gave me a sense of safety and security. 

It was an isolated place, far from other towns and cities, and I was sheltered. My love of nature, lakes, wildlife, and being free to play in the forest in my backyard gave me the opportunity to explore and use my imagination.  My parents both worked full-time and I was often with my grandparents. I am the youngest of three girls. Our family was part of the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses until I was about seven years old. I currently don’t belong to any religious institution, although I am a spiritual person and have faith in a higher power.  Mental health issues have always been a part of my journey, whether I was aware of it or not. My mother’s older brother has schizophrenia and she has been his caregiver for many years since my grandparents passed away. I have witnessed and felt the hardships that these challenges bring, not just for the person with the mental health problem, but their family, community, and everyone around them. 

In high school I enjoyed playing many sports and was very athletic. It was an outlet for me and I learned many valuable coping strategies and leadership skills. I continue to enjoy playing sports like golf, volleyball, and baseball, and encourage everyone to take up some activity as part of their mental health regimen.  In university I took creative communications and later worked as a community reporter writing news stories. I worked in media until I decided to go back to school for social work. 

Before I decided to start my own mental health coaching business, I was a youth and family counselor in Calgary, Alberta. My experience with the company I worked for however wasn’t great. I had spoken up about safety issues and in response was told perhaps I wasn’t a good fit for the job. I was ultimately let go, and I filed a grievance. During that time, a colleague was murdered by a client in her care while on duty at that same workplace. This I felt gave merit to what my concerns had been from the beginning. 

That was a very stressful and traumatic time for me. Despite my best efforts, two years later my grievance was voted not to proceed, although it had previously been voted to go to arbitration. The world didn’t seem so safe anymore, and the person I used to be changed. I found it very difficult to trust people. Then, the pandemic hit.  I had to work hard to gain back my confidence. This is when I started writing my book. My goal to be a published author was combined with my desire to speak up about a global mental health crisis.

Tell us something about your initiative/business or current role. What is it about and how is it helpful for people?

The years 2020 to 2023 were challenging for so many of us. They were some of the toughest years of my entire life. I experienced many hardships that diminished my voice and made me crawl into my shell: the loss of relationships, social distancing and isolation, the vaccination debate, job instability, and the murder of a colleague. In my book “Speaking UP About a Mental Health Crisis”, I share about my personal and professional experiences with mental health issues and how they shaped me. During the pandemic, I became depressed and developed severe social anxiety, which I continue to manage. At my lowest point I contemplated suicide and I lost hope for my future. 

Many people have died in the same way because they didn’t speak up or get help. In Canada, 12 people die by suicide daily, and globally over 700,000 take their lives each year. That’s an entire city of people.  At least 1 out of 4 people will experience a mental health crisis at some point in their lives. The mental health of just about every age group has shown to be deteriorating. Men and young men are currently at the most risk of developing mental health issues, which often goes under or undiagnosed. 

Due to the pandemic, the number of anxiety and depressive disorders both grew worldwide between 25-28% affecting millions of people. If there are so many of us who go through this, and that doesn’t include family, friends, community members, support workers, emergency responders, and everyone else who goes through it with us, then why is it still so hard to openly admit and talk about?  My initiative is to help end the stigma of mental health worldwide by speaking up about these issues. I’m taking action to educate and coach others on how to communicate about mental health, even if they’ve been silent, are afraid, or unsure of where to start. 

No matter who you are or where you live, we’re all impacted by mental health in some way. Everyone should know they’re not alone and be encouraged to talk about their experiences so we can move forward and heal as a collective community.

What has been the response of the users/consumers towards your venture?

The response to my book and launch of my mental health coaching business has been very positive and encouraging. Becoming a published author and thought leader in mental health was a goal of mine for many years and I am proud to have accomplished it. 

Here is a review of my book that made me feel extremely happy about the work I’ve done so far: 

Speaking UP About a Mental Health Crisis is more than just a book – it is a guiding light for those ready to break free from societal norms and voice their truth. Pamela invites you on a deeply personal journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Her sincerity and thoughtfulness shine through every page, making it easy to connect with her powerful message.  Pamela skillfully leads you through the process of shedding the silence that often surrounds mental health issues. She empowers you to be your authentic self confidently. With a unique blend of topics, from emotional intelligence to quantum physics, this book offers a holistic perspective on personal growth. 

What sets this book apart is its call to action. Pamela challenges you to use your voice for a greater good and provides practical guidance on doing so effectively. By tackling the stigma surrounding mental health, she encourages you to become a change agent in your life and community.  Throughout the book, Pamela’s soulful presence and expertise shine through. Her incorporation of her poems, thoughtful exercises, and even music recommendations add a creative and personal touch to the reading experience. As you journey through Speaking UP, you’ll find not only inspiration but also the tools you need to make a positive impact on the world and break the silence surrounding mental health.

The book is a must-read for anyone ready to embrace their truth, find their voice and be free to finally speak UP.” 

– Monica Bodurka, Co-Founder of the Leadership Wellness Group, Resilience Coach, Yoga Therapist

@monicabodurka @leadership_wellness Linked In: Monica Bodurka, The Leadership Wellness Group

Do you have anyone who is the biggest support system in your life? Please let us know.

I am very lucky and fortunate to have supportive family, friends, and mentors (other women in business) who have been my guiding light. My mother is my biggest cheerleader and has been there for me in many ways throughout my author journey. She believes in my mission and has my back in sharing my story and our family’s history with mental health.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity? OR Share a motivational message for the audience/women who are reading this.

We need to be the change we want to see in the world. What I would like to see changed in our healthcare system is to include more mental health funding and benefits and to focus on prevention instead of reaction. There is so much individual and collective trauma built up in our global society and we all feel the effects from it. Individually we’re being called to do what’s best for the greater good. To not act would be a choice to destroy ourselves.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women leadership today?

Women leaders are stepping up to support one another in a combined effort like never before. I’ve been lucky to find a network of fellow women authors and entrepreneurs who have inspired me to write my book and start a business. They didn’t give up in their pursuit of having and managing their own company, and seeing them achieve and exceed their goals gave me motivation to go after mine. 

Women will continue to rise to the top of their fields and break glass ceilings. We’re smashing barriers that should never have existed in the first place.

Get in touch with her: 

Facebook: Pamela R. O’Neill 

Instagram: @speakingupaboutmentalhealth