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Let’s Talk

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.

With Kane at 11 months.
My dad with my son, Kane.

20         The number of days 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.

0122-003
Dad’s favourite view at Cowichan Lake.

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.

Mental wellness.
Mental health.
Depression.
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.” 

Bell is partnered with the Canadian Mental Health Association as well as Kids Help Phone. This year’s campaign focuses on five simple ways we can all help end the stigma around mental illness:

  • 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
Grandad Dennis with Kane at 8 days old.
Grandad Dennis with Kane at 8 days old.

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.

Hope for tomorrow
Life goes on…hopefully speaking up helps to make someone else’s experience easier to cope with.

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.

Kristy Wolfe Photography Speaker
Sharing our story at the Grace in Grief Conference Edmonton May 2019

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.

He couldn’t.

Photo credit: Slice of Love Photography

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.

180 thoughts on “Let’s Talk

  1. I’ve reblogged this as well. Thoughtful, thought provoking and so very relevant. I’m finding more and more ‘baby boomers’ in similar circumstances, and many more who are also caring for elderly parents. The mental health implications are huge. The supports are difficult to find. Prayers arising for your courage to post, and for your healing journey.

  2. I have reposted this. Your family’s tragedy resonates with me because my own dad took his life in 1998. How can I ever forget my last conversation with him….Too many families are left behind.

  3. Thank you for sharing, im so very sorry about your Dad. My family also suffers with depression and anxiety, its exhausting. I have shared your message.
    May I ask how old Maverick is? Or is he born yet?

  4. Thank you Kristy for sharing your blog. My son Matthew age 20 died of an apparent suicide in 1995. His body was never found, but clothing and personal belongings were found at Sherringham Lighthouse leading police to believe he had drowned. His mental illness was “recreational” drug induced, with paranoia, anxiety and depression. He was on medication but I was told after the fact, that he had come off them because he did not have the money to buy them. Had I known I would have paid for them. Imagine how guilty I felt for a long, long time. Over the years I have learned to talk about mental illness, it has not been an easy task but it has helped my grief journey. You have taken steps to accept and understand mental illness, and at some point you will forgive yourself and your father. My deepest sympathy to you and your family.

  5. Kristy, my heart goes out to you and your family….but I specifically am writing this to let you know it’s NOT your fault. I also suffer depression, tho most people would never know it unless I told them (like that’s something you’d ever want to do – not!). I was sliding further & went to the doctor complaining of my increasing physical pain & he just increased my dosage. I am not blaming him. I feel that the shortage of MDs/specialists here in Canada contributes to the fact. They have to see so many patients they don’t have the time/experience/knowledge to recognise the crux of the issue. If they don’t ask the right questions in the right way, most of us don’t voluntarily offer the truth. I was self-medicating with alcohol & pot & in denial that it was worsening the problem…it wasn’t until I became critically ill that all of this self-abuse was discovered. I’ve been sober for over a month now & have no desire to go back to it! I am blessed to have friends & family who I know love me (& in my heart I know your Dad did, too) & articles like yours have made it easier to erase the stigma of mental illness & admit that you are a victim. It’s not sympathy I’m looking for, just understanding. Altho, it’s different for everyone, these articles make it more understandable/explainable, when I can’t explain it myself. Again, I want to stress IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT! Hugs…:)

  6. Depression can become a deep hole that it seems impossible to climb out of.With professional help and medication I found a way.Family support and good friends stood by me.I did not talk about it as much as I could have.I have had 30 yrs since then delighting in life and feeling its true sorrows.Sunrises are beautiful

  7. There used to be an Edmonton Bereavement Centre through the Jewish Community Centre in Edmonton. It was open to everyone. Please check to see whether it’s still there. (I’m no longer in Edmonton.) And please be very, very gentle with yourself as you grieve. I don’t know you or your family, but I have felt so sad about your dad ever since I read that he’d gone missing. You are not alone.

  8. Thank you for speaking out about something so personal.

    I’m afraid I don’t know about Edmonton services, but Calgary has a fantastic grief support service through Rockyview General Hospital. If you tried calling them, I’m sure they could refer you to an equivalent Edmonton program if it exists. Their number is 403-955-8011 during work hours 8:30-4:00 Monday to Friday. http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/4072.asp

  9. This was very well written and very heartfelt. I am a retired rn and worked with your dad. He was a great and caring doctor and colleague. I too have depression and been on meds for a lot of years, a lot of dark times, a lot of frustration, a lot of feeling less….It a day to day battle cause you never know when the abyss opens up before you. One resource that may be able to assist you in finding a professional to help you and the bog is the Medical Disorders Association of BC, phone number 604 873-0103 and website mdabc.net. I support your dialogue and wish you and your family peace and wellness. So saddened by his leaving so soon.

  10. Thank you for your bravery about speaking out about your dad, Kristy. Your honesty and insight are invaluable. I am sharing your post so it can reach more people. I am terribly sad for you and your family about your dad’s death. Ask people in your community for a recommendation for a therapist who can meet your needs; that is how I discovered mine. I have the best one in Canada; but he is in Regina. Take care.

  11. I’m so sorry for your loss, Kristy. Your blog is being shared and you’re making a difference already…thank you for bringing awareness to mental health and starting this important conversation.

  12. Thank you for sharing this important story. I am truly sorry for your loss. I can recommend Dr. Dennis Brown who helped me process my own grief after my father’s death. He can be hard to get in to see, but he is worth it. http://www.drdhbrown.ca/en/

    I can also recommend The Grief Recovery Handbook – available at amazon, if you’d like to do some personal work at home.

    Finally, one of my favourite quotes: “And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure . . . And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, ‘Yes, the stars always make me laugh!’ – The Little Prince.

  13. Thank you for sharing Kristy. This is a powerful message, and a such a sad story of loss and love. Your willingness to be vulnerable here is incredible, as is your willingness to contribute. Hospice is a place that offers support through the grieving process, so the Alberta Hospice Society would be my suggestion. As well, here in Victoria, we have the Citizens Counselling Centre that provides quality counselling to people, regardless of their ability to pay. Community Counselling Centre in Edmonton looks like a like-minded organization and they list bereavement specifically. I have had great experiences with community counselling agencies. http://www.communitycounsellingcentre.ca. Wishing you safe passage and healing thoughts on your journey.

  14. Hello to each member of Dennis Morgan’s family. I tried sending a message to you yesterday about how important and how wonderful your Dad and husband Dennis was ! He certainly had a dry sense of humour, fantastic listener and story teller alongside his professional work as a cardiologist whom the patients loved. I have been in the nursing area of cardiology past thirty-four years in Victoria and also back east for ten years in London & Sarnia for a brief time then Montreal for two years also in cardiac care unit . My sadness and shock hit me right in the chest when I heard about him missing, and was later found a few days later. It created shock waves throughout the medical community as well as I am sure his patients who adored him. I had assisted him in many procedures such as TEE”s ( echo’s etc) which he handled so well under pressure . .A nursing friend also in cardiology and I had planned a trip to England in 2008 and he gave us advice on Edinburgh and that a wedding of a family member, a daughter and many guests would occur soon thereafter . He was admired and fun to be with because he was so open and shared his happiness of life .. Please keep in touch with everyone here . I am now retired and also have two darling grandchildren son and daughter- in- law here in Victoria and another daughter Take care and all the best to you. I can relate in a way since a favourite cousin with severe depression took her life following complicated surgery in Toronto, a few years ago which set me back for awhile . I have thirty – eight cousins but Pat was one of my favourite and we used to visit each other while nursing in Montreal. Hugs to each and everyone of you Dale

  15. I was driving over the Malahat when I heard about your father on the radio. I felt a connection to him. I was so sad to hear the outcome. Thank you so much for sharing this blog…. sending love and prayers for your family.

  16. Thank you for sharing Kristy. This is a powerful message, and a such a sad story of loss and love. Your willingness to be vulnerable here is incredible, as is your willingness to contribute. Hospice is a place that offers support through the grieving process, so the Alberta Hospice Society would be my suggestion. As well, here in Victoria, we have the Citizens Counselling Centre that provides quality counselling to people, regardless of their ability to pay. Community Counselling Centre in Edmonton looks like a like-minded organization and they list berievment specifically. I have had great experiences with community counselling agencies. http://www.communitycounsellingcentre.ca. Wishing you safe passage and healing thoughts on your journey.

  17. Very sorry for the loss of your Dad. I think it’s a great and courageous thing you’re doing in using this as an opportunity to share/warn/alert others and I’m sure you’ll have saved others from going through this by your actions. You’ll probably never know but it’s like ripples on a pond – it spreads outwards. Sharing in Canada and Ireland.

  18. Hi Kristy. So sorry for your loss. After my mom died my dad went through a grief program through the YWCA and I went for counselling through Alberta mental health. We weren’t dealing with a suicide but we all had those feelings ourselves. I too want to talk more about all the “worrying” we do. Inside voices can be the most destructive.

  19. Kristy,

    I stumbled across this blog post because a friend shared it on Facebook. It feels like it was meant for me to see, because:

    1) today is Let’s Talk Day;
    2) Today is 16 years to the day since my older sister died of depression;
    3) Your father, who was found having died of depression 16 days ago, was my mother’s cardiologist.

    He was helping my mother heal her heart. And my heart is hurting today, and I imagine yours must be in terrible pain. Thank you for the bravery of this post. If you ever want to talk, and I mean that, email me. My name is Beth. I’m sorry you lost your dad, and I hope you have lots of support and find peace.

  20. I am so sorry for your loss, and know that you will cherish all your good times, with Dad/Grandpa. I am going to just suggest a product that may help you somewhat, but will never be a total answer, of course! Have you experienced essential oils? We are using doTerra, and you may want to contact someone in your area, if you like this idea. They have miraculous healing properties…..I will lift you up, in prayer.

  21. Kristy, I knew your Dad in passing. He was a lovely man.
    As someone who is also the daughter of a professional who experienced severe mental health issues from work related stress, I feel for you.
    You are not alone. I too have experienced extreme depression and anxiety. I was able to learn from my father, to gain strength to fight my illness from being able to see where he struggled the most.
    My advice: you are already a step ahead in the fight – the things you’ve mentioned in this post about medication not being enough, finding support in those who love you, TALKING ABOUT IT…. these things make me sure that you will come out the other end of this horrible time not only a survivor, but a resource for those around you. You will be able to save a life by being able to spark dialogue.
    My thoughts are with you.

  22. I too suffer with depression/anxiety and help people who do by teaching them how to change their feelings by changing the thoughts, beliefs and stories that give rise to dysfunctional feelings. It’s not a magic pill, but it is something that most people can learn, with practice.
    I’ve written an ebook detail my process. It’s free, no-strings-attached at http://www.bruceelkin.com/abcs-ebook.html
    I also coach folks in applying this process to their own thoughts/beliefs/stories.
    Change your stories, change your life.

  23. I’m so very sorry for your loss…mental health issues have plagued many in my family all of our lives and only now with the attention it is getting are we all talking and realizing that it is an issue that many face and has been so inadequately handled..all of us need to keep pushing to find ways that help those who need it!!

  24. Thank you so much for your sharing your thoughts and calling us to action by creating several forums for dialog around a condition that every family working through mental illness must acknowledge. Within their circle of family and friends and caregivers, there need not be shame. There are so many facets to mental illness to try and understand and your blog helped me just last night create a window of acceptance and opportunity for discussion with a close friend exhibiting similar signs to your father’s. I understand the grieving process all to well having lost a teen suddenly. Be gentle with yourself…some things we will never understand, but by reaching out to others we can gradually fill our hearts up and find peace. Bless.

  25. A very good message and an important issue/subject to “get out there” and stop stigmatizing. I am so sorry for your loss. More emphasis needs to put on not the medication side but meditation, eating, walking and support. thank you for sharing this.

  26. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for the reminder to be more caring to everyone. I have someone in my life who is suffering with mental illness at the moment. I will take your reminders to heart. I do hope you find peace in your heart.

  27. Thanks Kristy. I don’t know if you remember me but I was a friend of Erin’s in high school. I’m so so sorry to hear about your dad. What a terrible tragedy. Your speech and post are spot on and really touching. I’ll do my part to pass on the message in actions and words.

  28. We’re discussing this subject now within another group so I shall provide this link. Thank you for such wisdom.

  29. I knew your father as a fellow sailor; his kindness, humility and sincere concern for others made a lasting impression on me. I thought your comments at his memorial were brave, appropriate and incredibly touching. He would be very proud of you.

  30. Well said Kristy,, I think we are entering a new era of understanding and accepting of mental illness. and projects like “Let’s Talk” are a great way to keep the conversation going. I worked with your dad 15-20 years ago. I was always happy to hear he was the guy on call that shift, always kind to his patients and us nurses. but noticed even back then he was starting to struggle with decision making. So we all are guilty for not talking about this as a common problem instead of something to ignore. Hugs to you and your family and glad you are looking for more help.

  31. i am a man in airdrie alberta living with depression. Although i am medicated, the support of family friends and co-workers helps me in my worst moments.
    I have chosen life and cast off the embarrassing stigmas associated with depression and mental health issues. I too have lost loved ones to this dibilitating disease and my heart goes out to you my fellow survivor.
    If you would like to talk i am here to listen. Todd.

  32. I went to see a therapist in Edmonton called Pam Algar and she helped me a lot. She has an office in Sherwood Park and one in Edmonton, you can find her if you Google her. Best of luck, thanks for your comments, the stigma of mental illness must be eradicated.

  33. What courage and honesty in the face of such sadness and disbelief. I am a Registered Nurse and a mom of two who lived with postpartum depression after both my children were born. Talking about my experiences with mental illness and supporting others who have shared this journey is one of the things that I have drawn the most strength from…my hope is that you will also draw strength from sharing your father’s story and helping others. My deepest condolences to you and your family on the loss of your beloved father. Lisa

  34. Thank you so much. I have re-posted. My family has dealt with suicide, mental health issues and it is tough. Contact your local CASP office in Edmonton for peer support and resources. I live on Vancouver Island and we have a house at Lake Cow too.

  35. Kristy, I just read your courageous article about your wonderful Dad. My sincere condolences to you and your family. His death is a great loss to you, your family and to our community. I live in Oak Bay and served on Council until last November.

    I also had a personal counselling career, although not in grief counselling. I have re-posted your article on my Facebook page and asked that if anyone knows of a good grief counsellor in the Edmonton area, to please contact you. You may also want to contact your local Mental Health Association there and ask for a referral. Try to find someone with whom you are completely comfortable and in whom you feel a sense of trust and confidence. Our won family also knows well about mental illness. My husband’s brother has suffered from bi-polar disorder for most of his adult life. As you know, there is a great stigma surrounding mental illness and as individuals, families or communities, we do not talk enough about it together. The silent and personal struggle that your Dad must have experienced should not happen and sadly, we are all sometimes inadequate in dealing with the personal pain and anguish of others.

    This will be a very personal journey for you and your family. But a good counsellor can make a difference to you over time. I wish you comfort and I hope that you will find a counsellor who makes that difference. Take care.

    Cairine Green
    Oak Bay

  36. Thank you Kristy Wolfe for sharing and being vulnerable. I am an R.N. and worked with your father several years ago, in cardiology. Dr. Dennis Morgan was very well respected within the medical world and I grieve your loss. I commend you for reaching out and recognizing the need for counselling to help you through your grief. Very wise decision… I continue to pray for your family….
    Regards, Lee Murray

  37. Thank you for sharing your heart breaking family story … it will help get the difficult conversations going and hopefully lead to other families reaching out for help for their loved ones as they recognize symptoms/ patterns … you Dad was a wonderful compassionate person and a highly skilled Cardiologist … he will be greatly missed in our health care community. May the gift of time offer you some healing and may warm memories of Dennis on your darkest days light your way … hugs …. Cheryl Reg. N and former Monterey Elementary/ Oak Bay High parent who knew your family from the periphery …

  38. Hi, My sister died by suicide 12 years ago, Canadian Mental Health Association facilitates group grief support groups. I was initially not sure about a group setting but found it actually very helpful. Contact them and see if a group is starting near you. Great blog, thanks for talking about it. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts. Ciara Ramsden, Calgary, Alberta

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