“I have dealt with mental illness silently for years,” he told the Southern Gazette on Tuesday in a conversation over social media.
“I know how hard it is, so I just wanted to give others the chance to have someone to talk to.”
As a way to help others and share his own experience, the 19-year-old started a mental health support group for teens age 14 to 18. The group meets every Tuesday at The Merge in Marystown and every second Wednesday in Grand Bank at the Pentecostal Church at 7:30 p.m.
Bonnell said during the meeting, participants take part in a few “on paper activities.”
“(There is) a lot of talking by me, hot chocolate and donuts breaks, and a game of pool at the end.”
There is also a youth outreach worker present during the meetings to provide information or assistance to participants.
Bonnell said he received a lot of support when he came forward with the idea for the group.
“The support was outstanding – everyone was willing to help,” he explained.
“I believe people know that support here is at a minimum, so they were happy that something like this came around.”
For Bonnell, the opportunity to help others who are going through the same challenges he experienced “means the world to me.”
“I suffered with mental illness for a long time,” he continued. “I ruined friendships, lost out on opportunities to do the things I love, but most of all, lost all my self-esteem.
“I don't want others to feel that way, I took it upon myself, to be the change I wanted to see.”