Reading in Tamagawa Garden

Hailey Futer

Hailey Futer, Essay Contest Winner in the First-Year Category, 2020-2021

Haley Futer

Hailey Futer is a VIU Education student who has loved writing and the possibilities of self-expression ever since she was a child, but it is only in the last year that she has come to experience writing as a means of healing and empowerment.    She was initially nervous to write for her English courses and thought that writing about topics that were chosen for her would be too limiting, but she has found that she can bring her own voice into whatever she subject is assigned and that her experiences are relevant to others and important.   “I can come up with unique ways to make my assignments my own,” says Hailey.    

Her winning essay, “'All in the Head':  Using Storytelling to Help Patients Who Suffer from Mental Illness and Break the Stigma,” was born out of her own experience of recovery from two major unsuccessful surgeries and her struggle of whether or not to sue her surgeon, and is, as Professor Sandra Hagan describes, “an incontestable case for the power of storytelling to heal mental illness… [and] an innovative and sophisticated approach to an important topic for everyone, but especially for young adults in our current challenging times.”

When asked what drew Hailey to her topic, she says that after two years of keeping her suffering a secret out of fear of how others would view her she had the chance to explore her experience of trauma in an essay in an English 115 class.   That experience of writing and sharing with the class, and her experience of witnessing a friend’s battle with mental illness and their choice to speak about it at a live storytelling event, have prompted her sense that writing and sharing one’s suffering is essential for healing. “By sharing my essay and my suffering with others, I discovered that I am not alone, and I felt like all this weight I had been carrying around for so long had been lifted,” Hailey reflects.  “I decided to write about writing as a form of therapy because of how it make me feel and how much it helped me heal and move on.”

Given her recent positive experiences with writing, Hailey is considering a degree in English, but she also notes that writing is hard work and “the most difficult part of writing essays that are of great importance to [her] is knowing when to be finished.”   She recommends taking breaks and says that after hours of staring at the page, the words might come to her late, even during a workout.  

Hailey was hesitant to recommend books or movies, admitting that she doesn’t like to feel responsible if people do not enjoy them. However, she did suggest a few current favourites:  The After series by Anna Todd, Grey’s Anatomy, and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.