Dayna Gosselin drew inspiration for her poetry from an unlikely source: federal offenders who had recently served their time and were reintegrating into society.
"I was completely inspired by how resilient these individuals are," she says. "Hearing their stories, how far they've come. There are a lot of success stories, but unfortunately there were some that ended up back in prison. For those who are working to change and progress, it's amazing."
Gosselin, who earned a degree in criminology from Wilfrid Laurier University before pursuing a social service work diploma, worked at community residential facilities helping offenders get a fresh start and integrate back into society in Ontario. It was a rewarding job, but a challenging one.
To help her process her workday, she turned to writing. "The burnout rate is high in that field," she says. "You hear a lot of things and see a lot of things, so it definitely affects you. Self-care is extremely important. That's what writing was."
Even before she had a demanding career, Gosselin used poetry and writing to help her cope with her own struggles with mental health. "I suffered from severe anxiety when I was younger," she says. "When I sought help, I felt the professionals I went to didn't care; they weren't listening. I wanted to dedicate myself to helping others."
While that initially shaped her career path, it's also led her to self-publish a book of poetry, released Feb. 1, that delves into the issue of mental health. Called in the shade, the 198-page collection is organized into sections, from darker poems about mental health, to a section on all the positives that can come out of struggles to different types of support systems and how to build healthy relationships.
"I want to empower individuals to see that light can come from the darkness," she says.
To that end, the book is available for locals to check out at the Whistler Public Library (it's also available for purchase at Armchair Books and on Amazon), but Gosselin is also trying to come up with creative ways to get it to people who might need it — like leaving copies in coffee shops for people to take for free.
"It's not about the money for me; it's about empowering others," she says. "I hope that within their struggles they're able to find light — to be the light in their own darkness or the darkness of others."
Gosselin moved to Whistler in September with her partner. While she's only been here a few months, she's already observed the community's struggle to talk about mental health.
"When I first got here, I heard some things about how it's a bubble and in Whistler everyone is so happy," she says. "Basically mental health was shoved under the rug. It wasn't something anyone talked about... Mental health does exist and it's more common than you think. We shouldn't portray Whistler as this happy-go-lucky, everyone-is-having-a-great-time (place). It's hard to seek help if people aren't having a great time."
To purchase a copy of in the shade on Amazon, visit https://www.amazon.com/shade-Dayna-Gosselin/dp/1775222608.