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My teacher spoke openly about his mental health. What happened next opened my own mind. | CBC News

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The school day dragged on as I watched the clock tick and people walk down the hallway. I was exhausted and wanted to call my dad to take me home, but my friend convinced me that we should go to our health science class.

We went upstairs. I could hear my heart pounding with every step and dreaded the thought of sitting in a classroom for the next 60 minutes and hearing a teacher speak to me.

That’s when I walked in and saw Mr. Foreman greeting me with a big smile on his face.

“Hello Fiona! How are you doing?”

“Good,” I said with a slight smile.

My classmates and I took notes while everyone was still having their own conversations. Someone was talking about the upcoming basketball game while others were talking about Ramadan. We were in the same room and under the same roof, but all in different worlds.

Mr. Foreman spoke about mental disorders. Then he said something that made everyone stop and pay attention.

“I actually have OCD.”

It felt like I could hear the breeze changing around us, as if everyone recognized the importance of this moment.

Watch Fiona Babar’s video for the CBC Saskatchewan Creator Network about her teacher Andrew Foreman:

Secondary school teacher shares his OCD journey with 11th grade students

In this video for the CBC Creator Network, Grade 11 student Fiona Babar introduces her teacher, Andrew Foreman, as he opens up to his students about being diagnosed with OCD.

Andrew Foreman is my Health Sciences and Environmental Sciences teacher. He has been teaching for 13 years.

Mr. Foreman told us that he was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder in 2015.

“I kept it a secret for years. I remember sometimes standing at the door of my classroom and just being stuck there. I was very aware that students were watching me and probably wondering what was going on,” Foreman said.

He told us that at one point he couldn’t enter the building. He stood in the rain for about 45 minutes before he could bring himself to go to the classroom.

“I was soaked,” he said. “I couldn’t tell which was rain and which was tears.”

A young woman in a hijab pokes her head over a desk as other students in a classroom smile and look up at someone off camera.
Students in a classroom in Regina listen as their teacher, Andrew Foreman, delivers a lesson. (Photo by Fiona Babar)

As a student, I often assumed that teachers would never be able to understand what I was going through as a teenager. How could someone standing at the head of a class and talking for seven hours a day understand anything? In that moment, Mr. Foreman broke down the wall between him as a teacher with his own personal struggles and us as students.

In the past, I felt like I couldn’t talk about my own mental health. People are not comfortable with the topic. It struck me how Mr. Foreman had changed the narrative and transformed our classroom into a place where people could comfortably ask questions and receive answers in a real and honest way.

“Mental health is like our physical health. Some days we feel good physically, some days we don’t,” he told me later.

“Just as some people have serious health problems, some of us have mental health disorders that are more problematic and common than some people are used to.”

I felt like I could understand what he meant. Sometimes it feels like what’s going on in your head isn’t even a part of this world, and you feel so different from everyone else. But it doesn’t matter if others don’t understand your state of mind – as long as you’re okay with it yourself.

It takes one person to change your perspective. For me, that person was my teacher, Andrew Foreman, who taught me that it was okay to not be okay.

I have now learned to be that person for other people. He has forever impacted my life in ways that will extend far beyond the classroom.

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