About two months ago, I texted my friend Debbie to see if she and her family had been impacted by the California wildfires. She responded and in a million years, I would have never expected the response she provided. It shocked me. She responded that it has been a devastating year. Her eldest son committed suicide and her youngest granddaughter was fighting a brain tumor. And the smoke from the fires was bad, but the air was clearing. I read this message over and over. Taken aback, my heart felt so heavy.
Although I wanted to respond, I just couldn’t do it right away. I was at a loss for words, so I didn’t reply until the next day. A part of me feels like a bad friend for not responding immediately. My sadness for Debbie and her family is being shared with you to bring more awareness to mental health.
About Debbie...caring, always there for people and a lot of fun. She retired about five years ago and until recently, I think she was living her retirement dream. She’s part of close family of four generations. I think many people wished for a family that was so connected; I know I do. Sometimes families fall apart in times of crisis, but this family will be there for each other to support, love and cherish.
About her son...loving husband, dad to two young girls and one teenage girl and would give the shirt off his back to help others. Through his caring self, he would volunteer to battle the California wildfires and he often took time to feed the needy. Always helping others.
I don’t know much about what happened, but I learned that he struggled with depression. COVID-19 took the world by surprise and globally, we all self-isolated. Some areas more than others had strict rules; California was one of those areas. Governor Newsome had several strict orders in place including a ‘stay-at-home’ order. Some of most vulnerable people, including those suffering from domestic violence or depression, were now at a higher risk. Complicating matters even further, video conferencing was new for many organizations and not widely used (like it is now). With everything in lock down, her son lost hope as he didn’t have anyone to connect with. He was not able to connect with those that had been supporting him through this journey, and sadly his friends and family weren’t aware of what was going on. He no longer had access to his professional support systems. He kept it very much inside of him until the day that he thought he needed to take his own life. He was 36.
The day I wrote this, I went for a walk in the mountains. When you look at the tree in front, it is all alone. However, there is a tree behind it but just far enough away. Looking in the distance is an entire forest. It made me think that sometimes even though there’s a whole forest of family and friends, you feel so alone. With self-isolation, the physical and social distance can be too much for some people. In this case, this man’s family and friends weren’t physically around to see he was struggling. And the connection to a trusted therapist was on hold. Lonely and suffering, he was the most vulnerable as mental illness is a silent killer.
World Mental Health day was October 10 and has an overall objective of raising awareness of mental health. But mental health day needs to be every day. The pandemic is taking its toll on many people in different ways. It is important for all of us to recognize that mental health is silent, and it is hard for those that are suffering from mental health to reach out. More than ever, be present in your conversations and if there is a fleeting thought that someone is struggling, get help. If you are reading this and think you need support, reach out.
This is the time to hug your kids. I have a friend who would give anything to hug her son again.
Thinking of suicide? Please call 1-833-456-4566 toll free (In QC: 1-866-277-3553), 24/7
Buddy Up (Straightforward info to help someone you think may be struggling.)
Thinking of suicide? Please call 1-800-273-8255, 24/7 for free and confidential support