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

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

We went up the stairs. With each step, I could feel my heart pounding, dreading the thought of sitting in a classroom for the next 60 minutes, listening to a teacher talk to me.

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

“Hi Fiona! How are you?”

“Good,” I said with a slight smile.

My colleagues and I settled down to take notes, while everyone continued to have 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 was talking about mental disorders. Then he said something that made everyone stop and take notice.

“I actually have obsessive compulsive disorder.”

I felt like I could hear the breeze around us shifting, like everyone was realizing the importance of that moment.

Watch Fiona Babar’s video for CBC SaskatchewanCreator Network about her teacher Andrew Foreman:

Middle school teacher shares her journey with OCD with 11th graders

In this video for the CBC Creator Network, Grade 11 student Fiona Babar profiles her teacher Andrew Foreman, who has been open with his students about his OCD diagnosis.

Andrew Foreman is my health science and environmental science teacher. He has been teaching for 13 years.

Mr Foreman told us he had been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder in 2015.

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

He told us that once he could not enter the building. He stood out in the rain for about 45 minutes before he could enter the classroom.

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

A young woman wearing a hijab rests her head on a desk, while other students in a classroom smile as they look at a person off camera.
Students in a classroom in Regina listen to their teacher, Andrew Foreman, deliver a lesson. (Photo by Fiona Babar)

As a student, I often assumed that teachers could never understand what I was going through as a teenager. How could someone who is at the head of a class and talks for seven hours a day understand? In that moment, Mr. Foreman broke down that wall between himself as a teacher, with his personal struggles, and us as students.

In the past, I felt I couldn’t talk about my own mental health. People are not comfortable with the subject. I was amazed at how Mr. Foreman had changed the narrative and made our classroom a place where people could comfortably ask questions and get answers in a real and honest way.

“Mental health is like our physical health, some days we feel good physically, other 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, more prevalent, than people are used to.”

I felt like I could understand what he meant. Sometimes what’s going through your head feels like it’s not even part of this world, and you feel so different from everyone else. But it doesn’t matter if others don’t understand your mood, as long as you’re at peace with it.

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

Now I have learned to be that person for others. It has forever impacted my life in ways that will extend far beyond the classroom.

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