It has been five Let’s Talk Days since my dad died by suicide.
For people just learning about Bell Let’s Talk Day, that means my dad has been gone for five years.
Below is the first of many blogs I have written about his death. It is the first post I wrote really addressing my own mental health.
It has been five years since I joined the conversation about mental health. So much has changed and yet so much has stayed the same. I will keep talking. I hope you will, too.
20 The number of days that have passed since my dad, a 58 year old cardiologist, went missing.
17 The number of days that have passed since my dad’s car was found.
16 The number of days that have passed since my dad was found.
10 The number of days that have passed since we celebrated my dad’s life.
Tomorrow, January 28th 2015, is Bell’s annual Let’s Talk Day. You’ve probably seen or heard some of the commercials that have been running recently. The one that really hit home has two guys at work talking about another colleague who has anxiety.
Below is an excerpt from the speech I gave at my dad’s memorial. I’m starting a conversation about mental health.
“I know we’re all feeling guilty. I’m sorry I didn’t call my dad more. I’m sorry I didn’t spend more time with my dad. I’m sorry I didn’t say I love you more. I’m sorry I lied about my friend jumping on the hood of our 4Runner in high school.
But most of all I’m sorry we weren’t able to prevent this. The cause of Dad’s death is inconclusive. But what we do know is that he was having trouble handling work-related stress, which resulted in anxiety and depression.
We also know that Dad had so much he was looking forward to in life, and so many people he wanted to spend time with, that whatever happened it was not the way a healthy mind would handle the difficulties he was facing.
Here’s where I get on my soapbox. I started to think about things that are in my control. Things I can do. Be kind, be an attentive listener, be a shoulder to cry on, offer what I can… Maybe you’re thinking of someone right now that you still have the opportunity to support through some form of mental illness.
Yeah, I said it. Mental illness.
Call it what you want…we need to talk about it.
We, as a family, even talked about whether to address this, and decided that if we don’t start talking about it, who will? Our family has heard many stories over the years, and even more in the last few days, from Dad’s patients, nurses and colleagues about how compassionate and dedicated he was to helping others. This is where we can carry on what he was doing. Be there for someone else.
The greatest loss I’m feeling right now involves Kane and Maverick. I’m sorry my dad didn’t get to spend more time with his grandkids. He adored Kane and never got to meet Maverick.”
• Language matters – pay attention to the words you use about mental illness
• Educate yourself – learn, know and talk more, understand the signs
• Be kind – small acts of kindness speak a lot
• Listen and ask – sometimes it’s best to just listen
• Talk about it – start a dialogue, break the silence
My dad didn’t want to burden friends and colleagues by asking for support. My dad didn’t know about or wasn’t using the resources that were available to him. My dad thought he could fix his anxiety and depression with medication alone. He couldn’t.
Five years ago, I asked for help.
Five years ago, I also asked for for recommendations for therapists.
Five years ago, I asked people to share my blog, because I wanted to make anxiety, depression, and mental health in general something we talk about rather than hide.
Five years ago, I joined the conversation about mental health. So much has changed and yet so much has stayed the same. I will keep talking. I hope you will, too.
One way you can start talking about mental health is by sharing this blog post. Another way is to check in with a friend or family member who is a caregiver. Please start talking whether it is with a therapist or a friend. Everyone needs support with their mental health.
Five years ago, my dad didn’t want to burden friends and colleagues by asking for support. My dad didn’t know about or wasn’t using the resources that were available to him. My dad thought he could fix his anxiety and depression with medication alone.
Five years later, I am continuing to talk about mental health and I still have a therapist. A lot happens in five years. I have learned that the tricky stuff can open your eyes to just how strong and resilient you actually are.
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