Signed in as:
Signed in as:
In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month in the City of Pickering that is being observed in November, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues in our community and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health, and of putting a face to mental illness, I wanted to share Alex’s story.
As many of you know, we tragically lost my son Alex to suicide on April 1, 2018. Alex was 27. He was an electrician with a job he loved and excelled at, he was engaged to a lovely girl, he had siblings who adored him, parents who loved and supported him, lots of friends and the apple of his eye was his niece Jamieson. Only 2 ½ when Alex died, they managed to create many memories and a bond that was pretty special. He was funny, charming and smart.
To the outside world, Alex was leading a perfect life. But Alex had struggled with depression periodically for years. He also struggled with substance abuse, which we have learned often goes hand in hand with depression. He had some counselling over the years, was treated by our family doctor with medication when it was warranted. But he was a master at hiding his symptoms and his pain. Alex always had a smile on his face, we know now that it was a mask. On Valentine’s Day 2018, Alex’s fiancé called me and told me Alex was in a bad place. He wouldn’t stop crying – she had never seen him like that. We immediately got him to Ajax-Pickering Emergency. I too had never seen my big strong boy like that – he was sobbing and could not articulate why and it broke my heart to not be able to fix him. He was seen by a physician, given some medication and told to either follow up with the crisis team the next day, or if he preferred his family physician. Which he did. He was prescribed medication, started to see a therapist and while he wasn’t his usual happy self, he seemed to rally. By Easter Sunday he was dead.
There was no question about how we as a family would navigate these unchartered waters. We were going to be honest about how Alex died. We owed it to him to be his voice. That day, we carefully crafted a message for social media to let people know that we had lost Alex to suicide. That depression had stolen another one of our young men. We also decided as a family that we would do everything we could to ensure that Alex’s death would not be in vain. That his story was not over. So even through unimaginable pain and grief we took every opportunity we could to talk about suicide and depression.Statistics Canada says that for every suicide 7-10 survivors are significantly impacted. I would say that number is likely much higher. Alex’s death has touched so many, and while it is heartbreaking to lose someone you love so tragically, the number of conversations his loss has initiated has been heartwarming. We have held fund raisers, participated in walks, been very active on social media and worked with mental health agencies to raise awareness.
We hope the more we talk about suicide and depression, the easier it will be for those that need help to reach out, or at least let people know that they are struggling - so we can reach out to them. Alex hid behind his mask, likely because he didn’t want anyone to think he was weak. Depression is an illness, just like cancer is, but the stigma attached to mental illness is a barrier to seeking treatment, or getting the right treatment. It is our goal is to make it OK to not be OK, to help people and their support systems understand that they are #sicknotweak.We need to continue to reach out and support the Alex’s of the world, the seemingly well adjusted, successful individuals who are hiding a pain no one can imagine. Alex is the face of mental illness.