Lived Experience into Action: Tala Endacott's Advocacy in Mental Health and Social Work

That was something that started a lot of my mental health issues when I was younger too. I took no time for myself. So in terms of making sure I'm prioritizing myself, that was something I learned quite early on, even before going into this career, that I needed to do that if I wanted to be healthy.

Tala Endacott,RSW

CONTENT WARNING: This audio episode contains some sensitive content, such as discussions of addiction, the ongoing opioid crisis, suicide, grieving, and loss. As such, we recommend that you listen to it with caution.


In this episode of “Care to Listen,” Tala Endacott, a master’s candidate and registered social worker, shares how her personal battles with mental health have shaped her professional approach to compassionate, patient-centered care—Discover Tala’s advocacy for systemic change in healthcare and her insights on maintaining caregiver well-being.



  • Transforming Personal Pain into Professional Guidance: Discover how Tala’s journey through personal challenges deeply influences her empathetic approach in social work, offering a unique perspective on patient care.
  • Championing Change in Healthcare: Learn about Tala’s efforts in advocacy, particularly for gender-affirming care, and how she pushes for a healthcare system that embraces inclusivity and supportive practices.
  • Prioritizing Self-Care in Social Work: Tala highlights the critical need for self-care among caregivers. Gain insights on how maintaining personal well-being is essential for effectively supporting others.
  • Embracing Growth and New Approaches: Join Tala as she explores the evolving landscape of social work, demonstrating the importance of adapting and learning new methods to enhance patient interactions and outcomes.


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[00:00:00] Sean Burke: Welcome to the Care to Listen podcast. Today, I am joined by Tala Endacott, a registered social worker who’s currently completing her master’s in social work at the University of British Columbia. In this episode, Tala shares her lived experience and dives into how her past traumas have informed how she shows up for her patients and herself in order to prioritize her well being.


Today’s episode is being broadcasted to you on the unceded and traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, nations. Trigger warning. This episode includes discussions about sensitive topics, including depression, suicide, assault, and physical violence. Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Care to Listen podcast.


I’m your host, Sean Burke, and today we’re joined by an amazing guest, Tala Endacott. She’s a registered social worker who’s currently completing a master’s in social work at the University of British Columbia. Welcome to the show. 


[00:00:54] Tala Endacott: Thank you. Hi. 


[00:00:56] Sean Burke: So today we’re going to cover everything from your own personal experience, we’re going to dive into, you know, some of the work that you’re currently doing, the studies, um, and also just a little bit of, you know, what, what you’re seeing and what your hopes and future aspirations are for the future.


So, before we jump in, we’d love to give you the opportunity to introduce yourself and, you know, let the audience know who you are. 


[00:01:19] Tala Endacott: Yeah, definitely. So, I’m Talha, obviously, like you said. Um, I am a Canadian citizen, but I was actually raised in the U. S. So, I just moved back here, actually, this past summer, uh, to pursue my Master’s up here, and yeah.


Come back home, be by a family and whatnot. Um, so I’m definitely still learning a lot of kind of the different processes that are happening here versus in the States, especially in healthcare. Um, but yeah, it’s all really a learning process for me right now. Um, just finished my bachelor’s last year. So it’s fast paced, but I’m having a great time.


[00:01:56] Sean Burke: And, you know, I’m curious just to, to jump right in, in terms [00:02:00] of, you know, what motivated you to, Uh, select this career path for you. Um, was there any specific reason? 


[00:02:07] Tala Endacott: Yeah. So, I mean, growing up, I, I definitely led quite a privileged life. I would never deny that. Uh, but you know, happens to everybody. When I was about 13, um, I actually ended up being diagnosed with major depressive disorder.


Um, I was self harming. I had some suicide attempts. It was a really bad time. Difficult time in my life. I was in hospitals a lot. And, um, now I can look back on it and be like, yeah, that was actually really, really helpful. And I needed that. That was a good thing for me. At the same time, though, it was such a traumatic experience in some ways.


Um, kind of as I grew up, I decided, well, I really want to be able to help people who are in that situation like I was, but the hospital can just be a helpful place for them and not traumatic. 


[00:02:54] Sean Burke: So taking a little bit of that lived experience of yours. Um, and being able to take some of those learnings and apply them to, to support others who might be going through similar situations.


Yeah. So I’m, I’m curious that, you know, hearing that, um, you know, taking us back to that time of your life, um, and going through the system, you know, what that might have been like. Was there any sort of key, um, takeaways while you were, uh, experiencing some of those episodes and, and what the system did that supported you or maybe harmed you?


[00:03:28] Tala Endacott: Yeah, yeah, I mean, um, it kept me like physically very safe and, uh, I needed that at those times. And it was also kind of really good. It’s nice to be around people dealing with the same things like people my age going through the exact same difficulties. It was good peer support in some ways, but at the same time, it was such a controlling environment, you know, you couldn’t really leave, you could only have visits at certain times, so you [00:04:00] like, weren’t really seeing much of your real support system.


They would put you in, like, seclusion rooms for really nothing, um, or you wouldn’t be allowed to be, like, out of sight of staff members sometimes. So, like, you couldn’t shower, you couldn’t sleep alone. Um, and so those things were really, You know, I was like, what’s the point of this? Like, it’s a lack of privacy, a lack of control.


[00:04:27] Sean Burke: And so then now when you’re moving into the career and being on the opposite side to support somebody who might be going through that, what do you think is so important? How would you approach that situation in order to, you know, offer the best support that you could? 


[00:04:44] Tala Endacott: Yeah, you know, I’m really of the perspective that, um, whoever it is who’s in treatment, they have to have that buy in, they have to have that motivation, um, and us, like, not allowing them to be out of our sight, or, you know, putting them in seclusion rooms, that’s something that we chose for them, and that’s not necessarily what’s going to help them, You know, we can force people to do stuff all we want, but if they don’t actually want to get better, if they’re not there yet, then they’re not there yet, and all we’re doing is harming them.


So when I’m working with somebody in that situation, I just make really sure to be asking them what they want to happen for them in treatment, what their goals are, um, things that they feel are just really kind of off limits for them. And I also think, um, education for some of the staff as well about, you know, What to do when they see certain behaviors and like what appropriate responses are.


And, you know, the first move doesn’t necessarily need to be, Oh, let me grab you and put you in a locked room, you know, and try talking to them and things like that. 


[00:05:52] Sean Burke: And have you sort of noticed a little bit in terms of taking that lived experience and now going through the education, um, [00:06:00] you know, to get your master’s in social work and even prior to that, to become, um, you know, a social worker and to be registered, what’s.


And, and how has that experience led you to, you know, take a different perspective on, you know, or a different lens when it comes to your learning, uh, versus maybe some of your peers or classmates who, who maybe don’t have that lived experience. 


[00:06:26] Tala Endacott: You know, one of the, the cool things about social work and one of the things that really drew me to social work over counseling or psychology is that so many people go into it because of lived experience.


And that is something that is. So validated in the field and, um, just the entire kind of perspective of social work is very, um, systemic. So not just looking at, you have a diagnosis of schizophrenia or whatever it may be, but also what was your life like growing up? Um, what are your finances like? How is it like just everything?


Um, so it hasn’t actually really been something that I’ve, um, I’ve come up against, um, much differing perspectives from other social workers, um, definitely like other healthcare staff who are more like medically focused, um. But overall, I think it just means that sometimes when we’re talking about certain mental illness diagnoses or certain techniques, um, for example, like dbt, I did a lot of dbt.


I just have kind of like a, a different understanding. Like, I have the understanding of, okay, so I was a person who was doing dbt for myself versus just a clinician teaching someone else how to do dbt. 


[00:07:51] Sean Burke: Such a powerful, um, learning and I think, you know, ability to take that knowledge and to be able to support your, [00:08:00] your, your clients, your patients.


Um, I’m curious, you know, to jump back into a little bit of your story and your experience and then now supporting others, um, keeping in mind that the majority of our listeners are care providers. Um, and so, how does your, um, history, your past experience, how does it sometimes show up in some of the work that you might be doing?


[00:08:25] Tala Endacott: You know, there, there are definitely some patients that I see. It’s a little bit harder for them, not for them, for me to see them. Um, just because it reminds me so much of myself. Um, And especially when I see they’ve been, you know, in the system for a long time, been hospitalized a lot, just a really kind of ongoing, chronic situation.


Um, you know, I really feel for them because I know exactly what that’s like. And so sometimes, it’s not that I feel like hopeless in those cases, but it’s just I kind of think, oh man, like when I was at this point. And in my experience, I still had like so much further to go and you kind of get a sense for it, you know It’s like I said that buy in So when if i’m talking to somebody and they’ve been going through this for so long, but I can tell the buy in still isn’t there Um, it’s like well I just know that this is kind of bad Going to be going on for a lot longer for them, which is totally fine.


Everybody’s journey is their own journey. Um, it’s just, you know, like I said, not a great process sometimes, but I do think that the way that I approach people I work with can be quite different in the, like, I’m not going to force them to do anything if I go in there and they don’t want to talk to me, then we sit in silence and that is what it is.


I really, you know, like. If I ask them a question and they don’t want to talk about it, [00:10:00] that’s fine. We’ll move on. Um, it’s really, to me, important that everything that they can have a say in, everything that they can choose, that they do choose that. Um, and it’s just as personalized as it can be. 


[00:10:14] Sean Burke: And so taking that approach of trying to meet your client where they’re at, um, meet your patient where they’re at, and um, you know, I want to jump back into, if possible, the, the, the toll that sometimes that might take on yourself, um, and, you know, reliving some of your, uh, past experiences and, and so when you talk a little bit about, about that, how, how do you ensure that, you know, you’re taking care of yourself and your well being is protected, um, and what you might need to do to, to process some of that?


[00:10:50] Tala Endacott: Yeah, it’s definitely hard. Um, I experienced some really bad burnout, uh, in my previous job. Um, not necessarily just, it wasn’t necessarily because of my own experiences. It was just the type of job that it was. Um, but, you know, at that time, like, I was going to therapy, and that was incredibly helpful, um, just to have.


somebody to talk to and you, I find you kind of have a different relationship with a therapist when you’re working in the field yourself. There’s like an understanding that you know what the therapist is doing with you and in kind of a different way. So it feels like a lot more of an equal relationship, which is so hard to find typically like as a client or as a patient, person in treatment.


Um, but you know, other than that, I think I can become quite an introverted person when I’m overwhelmed and sometimes that’s good. It helps me recharge my social battery. Um, but sometimes it means I like cut out a lot of my support system. [00:12:00] Um, so sometimes it’s really about pushing myself. Yeah, I had a really long day at work.


I’m feeling really exhausted, really overwhelmed. And I’m going to call my best friend after dinner, or I’m going to go get drinks with my coworker, you know, whatever it is, just that small kind of little thing to make sure, um, even though I don’t want the support, I’m getting the support. 


[00:12:22] Sean Burke: And that’s something so often we hear, which is, you know, prioritizing other people’s needs ahead of yourself.


And, um, you know, the, it’s the classic do as I say, not necessarily as I do. 


[00:12:33] Tala Endacott: Yeah. 


[00:12:34] Sean Burke: Um, and making sure that you’re filling up your own cup. So. In, in knowing that, um, but then also to sometimes finding, you know, the, um, the discipline to actually do that, have you found any techniques or have you found anything that sort of works, uh, you know, better for yourself?


[00:12:54] Tala Endacott: I mean, I guess I’ve kind of always been the therapist friends. And, um, that was something that started a lot of my mental health issues when I was younger too. I took no time for myself. Um, so I, In terms of making sure I am prioritizing myself, that was something I learned quite early on, even before going into this career, that I needed to do that if I wanted to be healthy.


So that has definitely helped a lot going into the field, is I already knew how to set those boundaries. Not saying that I recommend all health care providers go through a terrible experience like that just so they know how to set boundaries But sometimes for me, it’s really just about having that conversation with the people in your life Especially if you know that you have somebody in your life Who’s going through a lot of really difficult things, and you know that you’re maybe their go-to person.


Um, just having that conversation with them kind of up front when you’re both in a good place that, Hey, you know what I do for work, you know what I deal with all day. That’s really overwhelming for me [00:14:00] sometimes. Um, and sometimes I’m not going to be able to support you. So if you want to talk to me about something you’re going through, Can you just check first if I’m able to do that?


[00:14:11] Sean Burke: Absolutely. And you know, I know yourself when it comes to being open and having conversations like that. You’re somebody who has volunteered on the Care to Speak line. So maybe can you just talk a little bit about what that experience was like for you? 


[00:14:26] Tala Endacott: It has been a wonderful experience. I mean, first off, the team there, all the volunteers, all the staff are just amazing and so supportive.


Um, but You know, I, I had this one experience, um, a little while ago where this person had called me and they, um, had basically just been assaulted by a patient at their work. Um, and, uh, at my old job, I was attacked a lot by the patients there. And, um, really in that moment, I was like, oh, I have, like, feelings about this.


And in the moment, it was something I just had to be like, okay. That’s there. Let’s put it over here and focus on this person. And it’s, it feels really nice to, I mean, it normalizes it for me as well, but it was also really nice to, for me to kind of have that call. Cause that is somewhat of a rare experience, um, thankfully, but, um, it was really nice for me to be able to tell her, Hey, you know, I’ve gone through that too, and it really sucks and everything that you’re feeling that’s totally okay.


Like, If you don’t want to leave your house, don’t leave your house for a little bit. That’s totally fine and, um, Kind of felt a little bit like giving us both permission to, to take that break for ourselves. 


[00:15:51] Sean Burke: So having those supports, being able to connect with, uh, your peers, having somebody to listen. I mean, to me, it [00:16:00] sounds like it’s something that, um, you know, all healthcare providers should know about.


And if there is a time when they need that, there is that service available. Um, and it’s great that people like yourselves are, you know, You know, volunteering and putting yourself out there in terms of being able to accept those calls and support. 


[00:16:19] Tala Endacott: Yeah, definitely. I appreciate it. Very much. I’m like, if you’re ever struggling, call this, like, you know, try and put it out there for everybody to know about.


It’s a great resource. 


[00:16:30] Sean Burke: So maybe, you know, as somebody who’s still going through some of their formal education, um, but also working within the industry, I’m curious to hear your perspective on. Some of the advocacy work or some of the, um, opportunities that you see for improvement or, or, you know, where we can, um, reduce some of the stigma or whatever it is you think, you know, where, where do we start when it comes to improving, you know, the mental health supports for health care workers?


[00:17:00] Tala Endacott: Yeah, it’s such a hard question. Um, and obviously in terms of, you know, kind of what is available to Canadian health care staff, I’m still learning that a lot. But, you know, one of the things I do know is, obviously if you work in a health authority, you have extended health benefits. Um, which is great, and I know that therapy is covered under those, but to my understanding, it’s not fully covered.


And there are lots of health care workers who don’t work in health authorities. I don’t know. What their extended health benefits look like then. Um, and to me, it’s just such a basic, easy thing to put into your contract to put into your extended health benefits plan is just therapy. You can have, I don’t know, if you want to put a limit on it, like one session a week for the whole year, you know, and obviously [00:18:00] that is a substantial amount of money, but we do know that our health care providers burn out so, so fast, and for some of them, it’s really, really difficult to find a therapist or even to find the time.


Um, and I really do feel like that’s something that we as a field could do better with supporting people to do, you know, as I’m in school, we talk about that all the time. It’s almost like in social work. It’s very much like you should have a therapist. If you’re doing this job, have a therapist. And it’s very normalized.


And we say that and nobody talks about how you You make that happen or what the reality of that is when you’re working. Um, and unfortunately the reality is it’s hard to do. 


[00:18:50] Sean Burke: And so often, you know, whether it’s just time or, you know, we’re living busy lives or we, we can’t, you know, find the right person to, we connect with on those different therapy sessions.


So it’s, it’s definitely a learning journey when it comes to, you know, Your own needs, but also to, you know, trying to fit that into your life and, um, prioritizing yourself. Is there anything specific when it comes to advocacy that either you have been, um, involved with in the past or would like to get involved with?


[00:19:24] Tala Endacott: Advocacy has been kind of somewhat of a tricky thing for me in the States, just the way that the political climate is there. Um, and especially for a while I was living in a conservative state. Um, so it was almost kind of scary to kind of go and do some of the advocacy. Just, you know, people have guns and, you know, it’s, um, so unfortunately, There were lots of advocacy projects I wanted to take part in that I, you know, I guess I could have, but it would have been like a real huge risk for me to do.[00:20:00] 


Um, you know, I felt really lucky to be able to go to some of the hearings, um, in the state that I was living in then, uh, for, um, gender affirming healthcare. Um, And, you know, me and so many of the people we went, it was really just showing up to show our support to all of the gender diverse people that came and spoke about like their very real experiences getting healthcare or struggling to get healthcare, the good healthcare providers that helped them and what that looked like.


And, um, I know that issues like that can be, um, morally distressing for a lot of healthcare providers. Um, and I, I try to do this, you know, in my own practice, and I, I do see a lot of health care providers doing this too, but I think maybe we need to band together if we want to have a little bit more of a, more of a difference, but, um, you know, if you hear somebody saying something, or if you see somebody refusing treatment, or you notice they have a bias, whether it’s unconscious or not, just be like, Hey, let’s talk about this.


What’s your reasoning behind this? What’s going on? And um, because most of the time people aren’t Maliciously trying not to do something or to do something Um, and so sometimes just calling them out on it can can really Be enough, but there are a lot of things that we could get protected that aren’t protected for our patients that would make it a lot easier for us as health care providers to go in and be like, Yeah, of course we can do that because that’s protected for you and we don’t have to keep having arguments about it.


[00:21:45] Sean Burke: I want to jump in a little bit to, you know, your personal growth and your future. So, you know, being so early in your career, what is it that you look forward to and what excites you about this profession? 


[00:21:59] Tala Endacott: I guess, [00:22:00] uh, I don’t know. It’s kind of the whole thing. That’s a little bit of a cobbled answer, but, um, it is a field that I just feel so passionate about and I’m so excited to, you know, kind of Get stuck in there.


Um, and I also just think we in Canada, at least, are in such a period of kind of like change and growth as a society, and especially in the medical, mental health, healthcare like kind of field. There’s a huge push for the move away from really, you know, medicalized models. Um, so I’m, I’m so excited to see that continue to roll out to continue to see person centered care become more and more common and more and more used.


I’m excited to see some of our old legislation being kind of overhauled and made more supportive and accessible. And I’m excited to continue to see kind of like newer, I know I’m one of the new generations, but, um, you know, sometimes in the hospital, I see like new student nurses and stuff come in and they’re having this whole discussion about like the trauma of, you know, having to give birth to like a stillborn baby or, you know, things like that.


And it’s, um, just amazing to see. How those types of perspectives have started to leak into some of the other professions in health care, and I’m just so excited to continue seeing that and, um, support people and learning those new perspectives and being a person to come talk to if they want to. 


[00:23:43] Sean Burke: It’s so important to have people like yourself who, who are bringing that, uh, energy, that level of passion into the work, um, and especially in an industry that, that needs more.


More people. Um, and as You know, you continue to go on through your [00:24:00] career and, you know, some of the challenges that you might experience along the way, knowing that you have a toolkit or a plan to take care of your own wellbeing is such an important piece of that, uh, to sustain that longevity. And to continue to bring that, uh, level of passion into your work that, you know, we hear and see so many health care providers across the province, across the country doing on a daily basis.


So, as you sort of move forward, do you have any plans, um, to ensure and protect some of your, um, you know, mental well being? 


[00:24:33] Tala Endacott: Yes, I actually do. It’s, um, one of them is something I’ve kind of come to a realization about pretty recently, in the last month or two. Um, my passion has always really been, you know, inpatient mental health care for youth, and that is what my previous job was doing, and I loved it.


And, uh, I got a lot of trauma from it, and haven’t been really been in a place to kind of do anything about it because it’s just been kind of so go, go, go. Um, and now that I’m more removed from that situation, I’m really realizing how that was a lot of trauma. It’s like still pretty bad. And, uh, come to the decision that probably I need to take a little bit of a break from, you know, Working in youth mental health just to support myself in processing that trauma and ensuring that my reaction isn’t affecting the support that I can give to them going and getting a therapist, you know, all those things.


So that is. One of the big things I’m going to be doing going forward for a little while. Um, and then also I just taking time off. Um, I’ve been in school for the past five years, I guess. Yeah. Five years. And. You know, obviously if summer’s off, but I was [00:26:00] working and now that I have, you know, like an adult job, right.


Um, you know, I’m going to go take vacation. I’m going to go travel and spend time with my family. Um, Um, and just really prioritize that now that I don’t have to go to classes or, you know, do whatever all the time. 


[00:26:19] Sean Burke: Yeah. I’m really hearing, you know, setting those boundaries, setting those expectations for yourself and, and respecting them and honoring them and making sure that, you know, if there is something that, that might be impacting you getting the support that, that ultimately you need.


And maybe that’s taking time away or stepping back from, which I know, you know, we hear so often. the classic put your head down, power through this, get it done mentality because, you know, there’s just a big backlog, um, or there’s the demands of, you know, getting through operationally efficient. Um, to make sure that you can serve the, the number of patients.


So, um, the more and more we continue to, to have these discussions and to provide places for, uh, healthcare workers to have these conversations, we continue to hear, you know, taking that break, recharging your batteries, and, uh, and ultimately being able to come back more energized is, You know, such an important part of taking care of yourself and, and being able to offer that best care to your patients.


So I really want to, uh, you know, applaud you in, in helping to create that plan and to be proactive on taking care of your wellbeing, I guess, as we’re sort of narrowing, uh, coming to the end here of the show. When you think of yourself, you know, in 30, 40 years from now, where do you see yourself within the healthcare profession?


[00:27:45] Tala Endacott: That’s. That’s so far in the future. 


[00:27:50] Sean Burke: Drew back it to 15 years. 


[00:27:52] Tala Endacott: No, no, no, no. It’s totally fine. It’s totally fine. Um, the reason I say it’s tough is because I guess I’ve really [00:28:00] kind of only ever considered myself. Being in one role and that’s working in like inpatient psychiatric settings with youth, you know, post my break that I’m going to take, but with the youth and doing, you know, like counseling and therapeutic work and that really helps me.


is my goal and I would be so happy to still be doing that 30 or 40 years from now. I’m not a big, um, I mean, obviously it’s nice to get promotions, you know, it’s nice for people to be like, Oh, you’re like a really senior kind of staff. We want to put you in this role. Like, that’s really great. But I just, I like being frontline.


I don’t want to do admin work. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t want to do private practice. And so to me, like, you know, maybe I’d like to take on some students, you know, maybe I’d like to be in a managerial position, like a little bit, just because I do enjoy teaching. Like new people and, and seeing their growth as they enter the field.


And I think that’s great, but I would never want to stop working with the people just ever. 


[00:29:15] Sean Burke: Awesome. Well, we need a ton of people like yourself. Um, and you know, I think knowing and having some of that perspective, at least heading into your, your career being so early, um, it’s great to know that you have a focus and a priority, um, and that, you know, you’re, you’re These conversations are being had now, um, rather than at a point of, you know, experiencing that burnout or, you know, trying to process some of those traumas that, you know, haven’t been processed or unresolved.


And so getting ahead of that, um, being, you know, a volunteer on the care to speak, uh, line, uh, being an active, contributor when it comes to the conversation around, uh, potential reform [00:30:00] within, you know, the mental health act, all of those, I think, you know, coming into the profession are energizing for others.


And so to be able to see someone like yourself, who’s lifting up others by leading, um, with the, by example, you know, I think is therapeutic in and of itself and, and can help to spur on some of those, you know, Um, positive wellbeing thoughts and feelings with your colleagues. So, uh, just want to congratulate you on all the hard work that you are doing and, um, you wish you all the best in your future career.


And thank you very much for coming on the show today. 


[00:30:33] Tala Endacott: No, of course. I had a great time. 


[00:30:36] Sean Burke: Thanks for listening to this episode. Be sure to visit the links in the show notes for resources and supports from the Care for Caregivers program. If you’re interested in sharing your story on the Care to Listen podcast, please reach out to us at careforcaregivers.


ca forward slash podcast. And don’t forget to follow us on your favorite podcast platform to be notified when new episodes are released. Thanks again for joining us and see you next month.