Hi, my name is Sally. I am a graduate student working towards my masters in counseling psychology. I wrote a different version of my story, one that focused solely on mental health advocacy and my experiences helping others with their mental health. It was all true but it didn’t feel quite right. How could I possibly post something that felt so censored amidst the other brave and vulnerable people on this page, who have used this platform to share their most personal struggles? Because the truth is, I have struggled, and still do sometimes. We all struggle at times with our mental health and it’s not always easy to talk about. It’s so deeply intimate and personal. So, as advocates, we too need to talk about the hard stuff to let people know that they are not alone.

A few years ago I was having a difficult time. I was overwhelmed with school, a break-up, and the loss of a family member. I thought a lot about whether it would be easier to just die or if anyone would even care if I were gone. I wasn’t suicidal but I didn’t want to be alive. These thoughts persisted for months at a time, keeping me up at night. I even told someone I trusted at the time about how I was feeling and the response I got was unexpectedly cold and it deterred me from seeking help. Despite my knowledge of mental health and the resources available to me, I refused to ask for help. I was embarrassed and ashamed of the way I felt. I was working in human services, helping people with “real” problems and getting help just didn’t fit into my warped self-concept. I didn’t think it was “bad enough”.  I associated my sadness with weakness so I continued to put on a happy face and tried my best to be “strong”. What I didn’t realize was that comparing my struggles to other people’s did not make mine any less difficult or painful. After a long year of self-hatred, alcohol abuse, and suffering in darkness, things in my life started to turn around, and with some support, I eventually overcame the dark thoughts and negative behaviors.

Not everyone is so lucky. So many people who suffer in silence get consumed by the darkness and can no longer see the light. Don’t wait for it to get “bad enough”. Suicide rates have been rising around the world. Despite things getting better on almost every conceivable standard of living, more people feel depressed and alone. It’s an epidemic, with suicide being the second leading cause of death in Canada among 15-24-year-olds. And an alarming 4000 Canadians die each year due to suicide.

Stigma, misconceptions, and fear kept me from getting the help that I needed. So many others experience this isolation on an even greater scale. That is why I became involved with Huddle Up for Suicide Prevention. We Huddle Up for every 1 in 5 Albertans affected by mental health issues. We believe in answers, education, community efforts and funding for proper diagnoses, treatment, and support. We believe in intervening early and keeping people connected, in having the hard, honest, and open conversations that can raise awareness and save lives. Together we’re changing the culture and de-stigmatizing mental health.

I invite you to join the community of individuals that have something in common: a loss, a connection, a personal struggle, or simply support for mental health. We want to end the stigma, raise awareness, and make sure everyone knows that they are not alone.

On September 21st, in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association, we are hosting an event to continue to raise awareness about mental health struggles. The art-themed evening will feature food, drinks, live music, an art auction, and much more. See @huddleupfsp or huddleupfsp.com to purchase your tickets!