Because we believe in the importance of Mental Health & Wellness and are striving to bring the conversation into the light, I recently launched a campaign called Out of the Darkness, together with Outside the Shape.

For me, the need to emphasize the importance of mental health, and normalize this topic around the dinner table became crystal clear when my daughter was subjected to some troubling events in her school this past year. The response of both the administration and the other parents involved was largely underwhelming. Some went above and beyond for all of the children involved, but overall the theme seemed to center on keeping it quiet and ignoring the issues until they went away. Well, guess what, if left unattended and largely ignored, a troubled mind grows more troubled. What we need is to pay closer attention. To listen harder. To reach out a helping hand instead of a judgemental look. We need to do better. One way we can start is to teach our children ways to cope, to express themselves and to breathe! But for that to happen, don’t we need to know how to do this for ourselves?

The creation of Out of the Darkness is based largely on these experiences but also on a lifelong interest in our mental health and it’s potential reach. I, like almost every single person I know, have been affected, in one way or another, whether it’s personally or via a loved one or acquaintance. Together, we will be raising funds and awareness (more on that later), and each Monday I’ll be featuring local Calgarians who have experienced Mental Illness in some way, shape or form. My hope is that together we can help bring the topic of mental illness and the necessity of self-care into the light. With every person who finds the courage to tell their story, we are that much closer to living in a world where acceptance, empathy, and compassion are everyday words.

I’m up first. To others, I strive to be a safe space, a shoulder to cry on, a non-judgemental sounding board who always understands that life is full of one giant grey area after another and that we’re all just doing our best. When it comes to myself, I am critical, judgemental, dismissive and downright mean. Why are we so much harder on ourselves then we would be on literally ANYONE else?  The pace of life is quickening and the rate at which we are losing people to mental illness is staggering. It is such a complicated subject but it all boils down to one single STARTING POINT in my opinion; Instead of shying away from the subject, we need to rip it out of the darkness and bathe it in the light. Mental illness is as real as

a broken bone, and much farther reaching so why do we treat it like a dirty little secret? Life can be overwhelming, sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed, watching our kids suffer is gut-wrenching. But before we can start being a support to others, I think we have to forgive ourselves for not being perfect.

I’ll be featuring a new story each Monday so head to Instagram and give @empirecreativeimages a follow. Someone reading your story may just feel inclined to share theirs as well or reach out for help of their own. Wouldn’t that be amazing??