Any Time IS a Good Time to Talk About Mental Health!
My life changed forever 550 days ago when my dad made the choice to take his own life – by suicide.
My Dad would do anything for anyone, especially his children. He had a work ethic like no other and strong core values; with a genuine care for people and a laugh that would brighten the room.
Who is my Dad?
A few stories for you to understand the type of person he was:
• He worked roughly 60 hours a week and then spent every weekend for almost a year traveling hours to help my brother build his house. He was always happy to help while creating great memories.
• He would help anyone in distress. One winter, in the middle of nowhere, he found a young woman on the side of the road, barely conscious. He made sure she was safe and warm and once she came to, drove her home. What my Dad never told me was the exact conversation; I would imagine it would have been that of a concerned father and he probably gave her a little be a “talking to”, how she could have died and she could do so much more with her life.
• He once drove from Ontario to Alberta to pick up his mother-in-law and bring her here to be with family, and he had only met her once. He was caring and helpful…like he always was.
To me, this doesn’t sound like the stereotypical person associated with suicide and depression.
How my Dad Changed?
Over the years something had changed for my Dad. We had very candid conversations after my parent’s divorce (after over 25 years of marriage) – it crushed him. He and his high school sweetheart had become different people. This is where I noticed he had always battled with mental illness. Mental health was not usually talked about. However he did seek help, the doctor prescribed anti-depressants, and realized it was a strength to talk and ask for help and not a weakness.
My Dad never wanted to be alone. Being a truck driver can be lonely, with over 12 hours a day with only brief interactions with others. He remarried, making his wife’s needs a priority, as he always did with everyone.
During his 10 years of marriage, he put his own needs and wants aside in an effort to make the marriage work and in so-doing his mental health declined. After years of trying to make the relationship work one night, he took his own life. He was a proud man, never wanting to burden anyone with his problems. His wife told me, the week leading up to his suicide, he asked to talk, reaching out for help, and she said she told him she was too busy. I wish he would have reached out to my brother or me, but again he never wanted to be a burden.
What I learnt from this tragedy
As a result of this tragedy I have learned, you and your mental health should always be the priority. I won’t let someone else make me feel that I am less important. When my friends or even family prevent me from being attentive to my mental health needs, although hard, I have separated myself from those people.
After over 35 years of life and the tragic loss of my Dad, I finally realized it is ok to “break up” with friends and family. In doing so, there were many tears, lots of questioning my actions, but today, as I type this, I know I am in a better place for it.
There continues to be a stigma associated with Mental Illness and it doesn’t have to be so. I believe, we are the change leaders and we can make a difference.
Five things I now do:
• Educate myself– stop assuming
• Be smart with my words
• Be kind and show compassion – validate others feelings and listen
• Actively Listen and ask if I can help – 2 out of 3 suffer in silence
• Talk about Mental Health – End the stigma
On the outside, I am a strong, successful, confident, and well-educated leader. However, on the inside, I am an unfocused, adult diagnosed with ADHD (now medicated), who is incredibly self-conscious and constantly judging myself to unrealistic expectations; who now, also greatly misses her father.
• I speak about my experiences;
• I see a therapist 2 times a month,
• I educate myself on mental health,
• I am continuously improving to be a better version of me, or how inside it makes me feel when someone judges me.
To help break the stigma when someone makes the comment they are crazy or stupid, or when someone judges someone else, I speak up.
And I think the stigma is diminishing.
At a New Year’s Eve Party, we talked about mental illness/health and we still very much celebrated after the discussion.
ANY TIME IS A GOOD TIME TO TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH!
We’re here to listen.