I didn't know you. I met you once briefly at an arena -- me there for my son's game, you for your brother's. I didn't know you. But I know your mother. We were close friends in high school, got together occasionally through the university years, not much contact since. But she is a treasured part of my past.
I am ashamed to say that, when you moved on, I never reached out to her. Didn't go to the funeral. Didn't pass on my condolences. Didn't act like a friend. I have horrible excuses. I believed there was nothing I could say that could be of any help. Mostly I knew that I would break down uncontrollably at the sight of her -- like her loss was tougher on me than it was on her -- and what good would that do anybody?
It all just hit too close to home. Mental illness is a very real and ever-present issue in my family. My wife suffers from bi-polar disorder and depression is prevalent in her family. The heredity of mental illness scares the life out of me Maddie.
I am constantly looking for signs of it in my children. I've yet to really see any, but the scary part is sometimes you don't.
If any good has come from your story it is that my wife and kids and I have a consistently open dialogue about mental health issues. It has been de-stigmatized -- at least in my family. And that, I really believe, is the key. I hope this leads to more conversation because it breaks everyone's heart when we lose someone like you.
There is much more I can do. I know this.
For now, the girls in my life all wear Maddie Stars. I will do more. And, to your mom, my deepest condolences, heartfelt apologies and lasting gratitude.
Frame Of Mind is a new series inspired by The Maddie Project that focuses on teens and mental health. The series will aim to raise awareness and spark a conversation by speaking directly to teens who are going through a tough time, as well as their families, teachers and community leaders. We want to ensure that teens who are struggling with mental illness get the help, support and compassion they need. If you would like to contribute a blog to this series, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Maddie Project is a community effort in support of youth struggling with depression and other mental health related concerns. Driven by community collaboration and events, the project's goals are to raise awareness by sparking conversations about youth depression and mental health concerns as well as to help provide uninhibited access to support for youth and their families.
The Maddie Project was founded in April 2015 in memory of Madeline Grace German Coulter. To date the project has engaged 100s of thousands in active conversations around youth mental health and has raised over $1 million dollars in partnership with North York General Hospital Foundation towards the development of Maddie's Healing Garden and support of other child and adolescent mental health services at North York General Hospital.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
One in five Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime Source: Canadian Mental Health Association
Nearly half of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem. Source: CMHA
Latest studies showed more than 1.3 million young Canadians have a mood disorder or addiction. Two-thirds had symptoms before the age of 15. Source: Statistics Canada, Government of Canada
Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15- to 24-year-old Canadians, second only to accidents. In 2012, 261 Canadian kids and teens took their own lives. Source: CMHA, Statistics Canada
LGBTQ youth face about 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse than their heterosexual peers Source: CMHA Ontario
First Nations youth are at a higher risk. The suicide rate among First Nations youth is roughly five to seven times higher than that of the general population. Source: Parliament of Canada study, 2014
People with mental illness and addictions are more likely to die prematurely than those without. Mental illness can cut 10 to 20 years from a person’s life expectancy. Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Contending with her bipolar disorder brought Yashi Brown to poetry, and with it, she's trying to end the stigma of mental illness.
If you need help, visit ementalhealth.ca to search for services in your area. Or call the Kids' Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, it's Canada's only free phone counselling service for youth under 20.
More From Frame Of Mind:
- Our Daughter Fell Through The Cracks Of Our Mental Health System
- Depression Is More Than Being Sad
- Suicide Prevention: I Want Other Families To Know What Ours Didn't
- False Self Syndrome: The Dangers Of Living A Lie To Fit In
- Depression Isn't A Personality Flaw
- Asking For Help Is The Most Important Step