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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. Kristy so sorry for the loss for all of your family. Thank you for taking the time (when your world must be in pieces) to bring this to everyone’s attention. I hope you find comfort in your memories and get the help you all need to learn to live with this without guilt. Take very good care of yourself your children need you!

  2. Dear Kristy,

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    I did not know your father but was aware of his disappearance through media.

    Thank you for sharing such a personal journey and letting us know more about the precious person your dad was. Through sharing it I’m sure someone’s life will be impacted, now or in the future.

    All the best
    Sincerely,
    Mavelle

  3. Reblogged this on Annethologist and commented:
    On this day, and every single day, we need to be aware that people around us may be suffering beyond their control. That those people need to feel free to talk to someone – to you, maybe – about what’s on their mind. We need to learn to listen, to really listen, and to hear what might not be said.

  4. So very sorry for your loss. I have an adult son
    who suffers from depression and anxiety and feel helpless. There are so few resources to help him and myself. I talk to everyone I know about mental health issues. It is so important stop hiding this terrible disease and to get people talking. I wish you and your family peace.

  5. Thank you Kristy. What you have done here is so important. It means a lot to me as one who lives with mental illness. And it will mean a lot to countless others and their families. Thank you. Please keep it up. Catherine

  6. It may be difficult to believe today, but in the years to come, by opening the discussion within your own family, you may very well have already saved a life. I wish you peace.

  7. We definitely need to talk about mental illness. I have friends and their children suffering from mental illness. You just never know how much a person is suffering from this illness sometimes until it’s too late. This was a professional person who knew what resources were available and didn’t want to bother anyone. Such a sad ending.

  8. I will share your message. It is most important to talk about mental health/illness. Most people know someone with mental health struggles, even if they do not know that they do. The more you talk about it, the more you will find others who will share their stories as well. I wish healing thoughts for you. I still wait for the day we find my brother. 4years and counting.

  9. This needs to be out there. People need to talk. How do we help those suffering from Mental Health issues and how do we help their families deal with it? The stigma attached is crippling.

  10. what a wonderfully honest blog. I suffer from mental illness in BC and am uneducated so therefore have to wait 6 months to get some free counselling. I don’t want to go on drugs…I did for a while but with kids ( my little darlings 🙂 ) it just doesn’t work. There is not much out there I am finding and find that sad. With so much pressure in society and so much abuse there really should be more available by our government. I wish u so much healing and blessings

  11. Kristy… thank you so much for this message. I know it will really hit home with so many people and I promise to pass this on. Your strength and courage to start talking is admirable and I will pray for you and your family to help you find comfort and peace. Your beautiful little boys will always have an angel to watch over them and the memories you share will help them to know what an amazing person he was. Sending love and hugs, Amanda and Kaia Proctor

  12. My heart breaks for you, your family and most importantly your Dad … thank you for sharing your story on this blog it’s sure to help somebody!

  13. Are you able to get to Nanaimo to go to Hospice. They helped me so much with my grief. My heart goes out to you.
    Donna

  14. I am so sorry for your loss. It is such an important subject that needs more attention. I knew your dad… he was my doctor and such a wonderful person. I am sorry that this had such a sad ending. I was at work today when a colleague of mine (I am a nurse at RJH as well) read your story that I had shared on facebook and was saddened. This blog has been shared 25+ times on just within people I know. So thank you for speaking about mental illness and if it helps one person that makes all the difference!

  15. Hi,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I have lived with depression and acute anxiety for 20 years, and I know just how difficult of a struggle it can be. Just recently I have had a resurgence of my depression and the psychologist that has helped me is Jacqui Leland –
    I am including her contact information.
    ( jleland@lexpsychology.com) Hopefully she can help you as well. Take care.

    Crystal ( a friend of Julia C’s)

    1. Sorry, I didn’t realize you were in Edmonton rather than Calgary. It sounds like there are many good suggestions for the Edmonton area.

  16. So sorry for the loss of your Dad. Your blog is a wonderful tribute to him and to the mental illness many of us suffer. Myself included. I lost my mom a year ago and I am helping my dad deal with bladder cancer. I often feel sad, lonely and alone. Reading your blog touches on many things people feel when depressed and I thank you for that. I hope you find the help you need and find solace in knowing you are not alone. Condolences to you and your family.

  17. If you are in Edmonton I would suggest trying a woman named Linda at Jewish family services…780-454-1194. I found her to be very helpful. You do not have to be Jewish to go there. I am very sorry for your loss and hope you will soon find peace…

  18. I’m not a professional psychologist, nor a grief councillor of any special degree. I am a strong woman who has big shoulders and great ears. I know the strength of a hug and the peace in the silence. Walked some shoes I didn’t choose, but have helped a few find their right size. Hands up to your journey. You will find the voices you need to hear and the arms you need to hold you.

  19. I have been where you are now. Time will take care of most things, but you must absolve yourself from the guilty feelings. It is not yours. It was his. You need to accept this. You are free to mourn and to miss- but do not hold on to guilt or neither of you wil be free. xo

  20. Kristy, thank you for your openness and your sharing of such a personal tragedy. This past year I experienced a seemingly similar situation. I’m bipolar and over the years [40+] have been able to deal with and move through my depressive episodes more or less successfully with the support and love of my friends and family, especially my wife. However, this past year the bottom fell out of my life and I experienced 7 months of the worst depression and anxiety since I was an adolescent. The anxiety was overwhelming and at times unbearable…so much so that I attempted self harming suicidal behavior… thankfully without success. It was a very painful, confusing time for me, even surrounded by the love of my immediate family and friends. I ended up in hospital for 2 months on a mental health ward. It took all that time for me to accept and realize that I couldn`t deal with my condition with medication and loving support alone. That left me with the choice of ECT which had been suggested earlier…. I was scared and very hesitant. It took a number of treatments, 12 in all but I`ve come through my awful state of mind and now 7 months later I`ved had continued good health and mostly positive days. I`ve been very fortunate and I continue to work hard to be aware and appreciative of the journey I am on and that everyone has their own journey towards Mental Health. I share my story in an attempt to be as open and honest as you were on your post. I wish you and your family strength, loving support and all the good memories of your wonderful Dad and Grampa. Tom

  21. Hi Kristy,
    I’m a physician in Victoria, and while I didn’t know your dad personally, I knew of his reputation as a kind and skilled cardiologist. I want to also recommend, as someone else has, the Physician Health Program, through the Doctors of BC. It is a confidential, free service for physicians and their family members. There is a 24 hour hotline (1-800-663-6729) and you can access private counseling and psychiatric services. I have used it, as have many colleagues I know, and it was very helpful. I’m so very sorry for your loss but so grateful that you are speaking out, it will help many others. http://www.physicianhealth.com/

  22. What beautiful pictures of your dad. I lost mine in 1999. Natural causes but much too early due to a lousy health system with MUCH too long wait times. Sent me into another tailspin. Have suffereed from depression for years, from mild to acute. There is no simple solution. Try different things, exercise, journals, psychologists, and presently Logosynthesis. The latter has helped me a great deal. It seemed hokey at first, but it does ease the anxiety and the pain. Find what works for you. If nothing else enjoy the journey in helping, caring and loving yourself. YOU deserve it. We all do. I always try to think of what my dad woud say, do or want. I think you need to do this at this time. He would NEVER blame you or say you contributred to the cause. I know this because that what my dad and dad’s in general feel towrards their children. Remember the beautiful things about him and talk to him every day. It does help. Take care.

  23. I am so sorry of your loss,,I’m happy to hear you speaking out about it and sharing, in this way your dads death will mean something as more and more people speak out!! Sometimes stress and anxiety become so overwhelming and we think there is no one we can talk to or share our feelings with especially ones who think, others believe I’ve got it altogether so how can anything be wrong with me Truth is we all need someone to talk to and reach out ..so lets try to be that person!!!

  24. Thank you for sharing and speaking up about mental illness. My heart grieves for the loss of your father and I hope you can find a professional who can help you through this.
    My son has been on this journey for several years. We were told not to tell others because of the stigma attached. How wrong is that?!? Especially when we have lost other young people from our community because they don’t know how or where to reach out for help.
    This suggestion won’t help you – but if your readers have a child they are concerned about – contact your family doctor. They should be able to put you in contact with someone who can evaluate and diagnose. We live in Victoria and the Queen Alexandra provides care from some wonderful people who can help.

  25. If you live in Edmonton, I highly recommend Dr. Dan Cross at the L’ousage Institute . He was a tremendous help to me , and through my phone calls to Ontario, also helped my brother. Hope he’s still practising there. All the best.

  26. So sorry to hear about your loss. From personal success, I highly recommend specialized kinesiology. If you have never heard of it before, a great place to start is CANASK (Canadian Association of Specialized Kinesiology). There are several modalities, some of which are: Touch for Health, Body Talk, and SIPS (Sensory Indicator Point System). All modalities are explained on CANASK’s website and they also have a list of practitioners. This is a link to the list of Alberta practitioners, as I see you are from Edmonton. I truly believe that these modalities should be integrated into our health system, if they were, we would see staggering success rates in healing.

    http://canask.org/membership-directory/practitioner-members/practitioners-alberta/

  27. Kristy, I am so sorry for you and your family’s loss. You are a courageous woman for sharing your story and I thank you for coming forward. My family went through a similar experience nearly 10 years ago and it is so important that we don’t continue the secrecy after a suicide but rather, do our part in moving forward and speaking out about mental illness. I am passing on your blog.

    Janet

  28. My son Joe is a friend of Brendan’s. I was very aware at the time via the media and was thinking about your family. I am lucky…I am effectively treated for depression but have experienced difficult times in the past so am aware of how crippling it can be. And it is an invisible disabiliy. Thank you and to your family for talking about this, telling the truth instead of hiding it. I believe from much experience that it is important to find a way out of the shame about depression and anxiety, to bring it out into the light. It is a health problem like diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, etc…except for the stigma. Your family is standing up to that. I have felt very sad about your family’s loss. Take care.

  29. I had a good conversation with your Dad when we ran into one another at the Canadian Cardiovascular Society annual meeting in Vancouver in October. We got caught up on our kids lives, our wives goings on and other things. He told me about the status of his vision and a whole lot of other stuff. We had a beer together. I’d known about his depression problems a little bit but at no time had he felt he could disclose very much during the 25 years that I knew him. I guess he thought it best to keep things to himself although many of us would have been happy to listen. He always had an easy laugh and must have been covering up the suffering he was enduring. There is such a stigma attached to speaking about chronic depression that those who suffer from it and especially medical professionals don’t want to sound like they are complaining or revealing a “weakness” that others may think they can’t control or look down on them for.
    You are so right Kristy, that it is time for people with mental illness to be encouraged to open up but first it is even more important for the rest of us who do not have chronic depression or other mental illnesses to learn to listen and not make judgments or use demeaning language when speaking about mental illnesses. We have a duty to remove the stigma. Speaking to affected people in a sensitive and positive fashion is bound to help give them little lifts and prevent them from going to the deepest depths of despair and hopelessness.

  30. In 1963 I spent several weeks in the psychiatric ward at the University Hospital in Edmonton, undergoing therapy including insulin, which I believe is no longer used. From my experience I reached the decision that I would throughout my life always speak out about mental illness, hoping to help ease the stigma of mental health. Mental health disease comes in many diffirent shades but from my experiences the worst part is the suffering of separation, loneliness, hopelessness. These feelings are the killers – because they prevent us from reaching out, for sharing, feeding the loneliness and hopelessness. It may sound naive but I’ve reached conclusion the one effective way to reach these lonely, hopeless souls is to put them in touch with a rescue animal. Society is learning across the board of social problems that the love and affection of a four legged animal can and will open a lonely heart.

    1. Wonderful advice…I don’t own a dog, but have recently bought treats to share when I meet them along the way (always asking permission prior to giving them). I cannot tell you the joy that this brings to me & would encourage anyone who cannot own one themselves to try it.

  31. I am so sorry for your loss! His death has affected many people and he will be greatly missed! I was one of the lucky people who had the honor of having him as my cardiologist for the past 15 years. He was such a warm and caring person and I may not be here today if it wasn’t for him.

  32. David Kinloch and Kristy
    I have just found out that is a registered nurse is admitted to a psychiatric facility, the psychiatrist or admitted physician must report the admission using the RN’s name to our governing professional body the CRNABC. I do not know if it is the same for physicians but it certainly has made me think twice about asking for help. Chronic depression is often worse in the winter and I would dread November to February. I once had a nursing manager tell me when I was going through a particularly hard episode of depression that no one liked working with me and I would be better off to leave nursing. Luckily my GP stood by me and supported me with written sick leave letters and compassion. I feel “lesser than” and “worthless” when I am depressed and having someone tell me no one liked me, almost put me over the edge. I have had 4 GPs all who have been amazingly supportive and I know without them I would not be here today. Not only the pharmacology management but the emotional support which always took a longer amount of time than the doctor was allotted to see me. BC medical needs to financially compensate GPs for the time they spend with those struggling with mental illness. We need easier access to psychiatrists and psychologist visits should be financially
    covered by BC medical.

  33. Hello Kristy. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for posting this information about your father. It is such a comfort to read your blog and the comments of others. I have been grief stricken about your father’s death from the moment I heard about it. I have never been so effected by someone’s death as I have been by that of your father’s. I feel for your whole family, as well as for the hundreds of patients that enjoyed the comfort and support and outstanding service that your father provided.
    My mother was a patient of your fathers. He was so gentle and kind to my mother, that it often caused my eyes to well up with tears just seeing his sweet way of treating my mother. My mother absolutely loved your father. He always made both of us feel better after seeing him than we felt before the appointment. That is saying something in my mother’s case since she is not a candidate for surgery. Your dad knew that the condition of her aortic valve would continue to deteriorate and eventually cause her death. He knew how to acknowledge that grim fact while helping us to focus on the positive of enjoying the life there was to enjoy each day, while my mother is alive.
    Your father was a gifted man and an amazing human being. As one of his patients remarked, he was ‘one in a billion’ I completely agree with that statement. I have never met another man like him. My mother and I will miss him immeasurably. Over the years, I have often remarked to my friends about what a wonderful cardiologist my mother has. I would often say that he is such a good doctor, I can hardly wait until I have heart problems myself. (In this last week, I noticed that another patient of his made the same remark years ago, on ‘Rate Your Dr.’ ha ha) Given that my friends know that my own issues with anxiety and depression usually makes seeing any doctor a distressful ordeal for me, they knew by my little tongue in cheek remark, that Dr. Morgan must really be special. And he was, and always will be remembered for that by my mother and me.
    Kristy, I LOVE the pictures you have posted of your father. It fits the impression that your father left with us about his love of his family. We knew that he absolutely adored his wife (your mother) and his kids and grand children. When he mentioned you guys he would always get a twinkle in his eyes, and his smile broadened with warmth. Will you please post more pictures and share some of your favorite memories of your father with us. I am sure that I speak for most if not all of us, that we would love to hear your sweet memories of your father, and see more pictures too. (It may call for another blog – “Remembering My Dad”, or “Remembering Dr. Dennis Morgan” or something like that). It would be great to hear your memories and those of others in the family, and we could respond with our memories. I think that keeping memories alive is helpful toward healing, or at least it may offer some relief from grief. Our hearts go out to you and your dear family. With all my heart – Anna B. Rosa (and mother, Roselyn)

  34. Kristy..I worked with your wonderful dad, over my nursing career and can’t imagine your pain or even Dennis’ to feel he made that choice to end his suffering…I feel positive that your loss of your dad will somehow be lessened with knowing that what happened to him will help change the stigma of only a weak person has depression….which is so untrue….I don’t think any of us have gotten away in life, without situational depression and if dealt with at that time..with seeing mental wellness professionals it is just as important as seeing doctor for physical issues…hopefully the public can push for medical plans to cover more care in this area…I’d admire your strength to step forward to speak on behalf of your wonderful dad ,who surely would be so proud of you…to be helping others deal with all this…as he always did with patients and relatives…and coworkers.

  35. I lost my Mom due to depression in 1993. I still find it hard to understand but when I do I go to a website called “Suicide survivors, those left behind” There is also a book that helps people in your life understand what you are going through. I am sure he didn’t really want to do this, just didn’t want to ‘feel like a burden” to his loved ones, even though we know they were NEVER THAT. My Mom was a nurse but never wanted her co-workers know how much she suffered. Just know there are so many of us that want to turn back the hands of time and get them the help they needed in their darkest days. Reaching out and talking is the best therapy, talk, tell people, and know you are not alone it is NOTHING to be ashamed of! I wish you peace, health and helping heart and hand to help you and your loved ones! I too was in BC when this happened but I think the problem of not understanding, or getting the help (other than anti-depressants) is world wide. Hugs to you!

  36. Thank you for your openness Kristy – this is the only way we will erase the stigma around mental health issues . I was an RN working in Psychiatry and Mental Health for many yrs. . My sympathy to you in the loss of your Dad. I want to tell you about Sunrise Grief Retreats of which I am a part of. Please look us up – http://www.sunrisegriefretreat.org and we are in B.C. This may be an option for you along your grief journey.

  37. Kristy, we are listening and yes, I will share your blog. I am so sorry for your loss. Your writing is powerful and I thank you for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you and I wish you strength as you work through this difficult time. I am glad to read that you have many suggestions for a professional – I hope you quickly find someone who really hears you and you can work with.

  38. Thank you for sharing…a beautiful tribute. While I’m glad to hear people wanting to talk about it I’m not yet convinced the general public is ready. I was diagnosed with clinical depression in my 30’s and a few yrs later I thot it was over. Now in my fifties its back and frankly I’m kinda tired of talking about it. At least to therapists. But its not really coffee room chit chat is it. I still feel it would be awkward and I certainly don’t want sympathy. It is what it is. Don’t know how many years I’ll be on meds this time but I do have a sweet husband I can confide in to talk me out of leaving too soon when that cloud gets too heavy. I’ve seen the commercials and thought they were a bit silly…but it is a start. Hope it doesn’t fade away….

  39. i am so sorry for your loss. You are in my thoughts. I believe your dad is still with you in spirit and I hope you can find a small amount of peace in that thought. Take care and I am sorry for your terrible loss.

    Kind regards,

    Joanne

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