As I write this letter to you, I am looking out my window over a silent snow-covered landscape. The peaceful quiet is soothing, and my thoughts wander freely. I love this about the season – the expansive silence as the year draws to a close. And yet, silence is not always golden …
Silence can be deceiving. Many people suffer in silence, hiding difficult and frightening thoughts. Many of us may look fine, but inside are ravaged by racing and anxious thoughts; not knowing where to reach out, not knowing how to even begin the conversation.
You can do something to help! Support those living with mental health challenges in Saskatoon and area by donating to CMHA Saskatoon today. Your gift will help someone break their silence.
You know that the holiday season should be filled with laughter and the sounds of people in celebration. However, many continue to experience feelings of sadness, longing, loss and worry. And while the holidays are a joyous time for many, for others their mental health is worse than ever.
Right now, many are struggling with dark, grey days and long, anxious nights – maybe you feel this way. Calls to CMHA for information, help and support have multiplied 5 times since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. 40% of those calls are from people who are reaching out for the first time in their lives. Many are calls of concern for family members: husbands, partners, parents, daughters, sons.
Now more than ever, our community needs CMHA Saskatoon’s support, programming, and services. I know you understand this and want to help during the holiday season.
That’s why I am asking you to donate generously today! Your support means so much to those seeking help.
Stigma surrounding mental health support continues to be a challenge, especially in men. Many men suffer in silence when they experience feelings of sadness, irritability, loneliness or anxiety. Society teaches men to value strength, toughness, self-reliance and stoicism. Unfortunately, these values don’t leave room for support when our mental health is affected.
“The sudden death of my mother was very difficult”, he remembers. “Her unexpected passing and the shock of her untimely death produced a deep depression and anxiety.” He wonders now if the experience was a trigger for what was to come.OREST, CMHA CLIENT
Numerous researchers have stated that there is a silent crisis in men’s mental health. This is based on robust evidence that men have high rates of mental health issues, including suicide and substance use, combined with low rates of mental health service use. Of the 4,000 suicide deaths in Canada each year, 75 % are men.
Orest, thankfully, is not one of those statistics. Orest first experienced mental health challenges after the passing of his mother in his early adult years. He was working for the Canadian Coast Guard when he noticed things were not right. He was depressed and worried by his thoughts. As a result, he returned to Saskatoon to live with his father, hoping that would help with his unease and anxiety.
“I didn’t understand what was going on with me,” he says. “I became scared and withdrawn, stressed. I felt paranoid and never had before. It didn’t occur to me to seek help, but I knew I needed family.”
For the next nine years, Orest spiralled in and out of stress and anxiety. Even with what he was experiencing, Orest didn’t believe he was “ill.” So, he didn’t talk to anyone about his thoughts.
“Those were the years with no help or medication,” he recalls. “It was a turbulent and unsettling time. I didn’t understand what was happening, and I didn’t seek medical help.”
When Orest’s father died, he moved to BC for work. It was there Orest began to suspect the reason behind what he was feeling and knew somehow he had to break his silence:
“I knew something was terribly wrong with my perception,” he says. “I was experiencing certain psychotic episodes and found it increasingly difficult to relate to people. It was an eye opener.”
Because it was hard to explain what he was experiencing, making a connection with someone who could help proved difficult. Orest tried to contact doctors and support people but could only get so far. So, with the encouragement of his brother and sisters, Orest came home to Saskatoon to find help.
“It was the most important decision I made in my life!”
Once Orest found a psychiatrist and medical assistance, his life turned around for the better. He felt whole again. It was a relief and though the side effects of the medication were difficult, he began to “feel normal.”
Orest also found help and support by coming to CMHA Saskatoon. He was connected to Brenda, a long time CMHA Saskatoon mental health worker, and an old friend from school. With this connection to CMHA Saskatoon, and as his medication began to make a difference, Brenda worked with and offered Orest options for courses and programs. These gave his days structure, and he made new friends.
As Orest gained control of his life and health, he began to work again. Brenda was always available when he needed someone to talk to. When he was hospitalized during one of his setbacks, Brenda was there, ready to arrange appointments and care for his well-being, even coming to appointments with him. When Orest could manage on his own again, he could always call her, and they would resolve any issues over the phone or in a meeting. They still do today!
Like the rest of us, the pandemic has brought its challenges to Orest. Self-isolation was an adjustment. He spends time with family and sees a local friend occasionally. Another friend keeps in touch with email, texts and phone calls. His limited income and small pension are concerns, “but I’m not complaining.”
“When I look at my life, I’m very fortunate and very grateful for the things I have, for my family, and people I know,” he says. “Ups and downs, times of despair, loss and gain. I try to stay positive with everything that’s been thrown at me.
Thanks to the help of my doctor and Brenda at CHMA, I keep going. Without their support, I could only imagine where I would have ended up. I know where I once was and never want to go back.”
Sometimes you need someone to walk alongside you as you make sense of it all. Someone who knows what you are going through, who will listen and encourage you. When you give to CMHA Saskatoon, someone in your community feels supported, heard, and understood in life’s most challenging moments.
Happy Holidays – Stay safe and be well!
Faith Bodnar – CMHA Saskatoon, Executive Director
We acknowledge we are on Treaty 6 territory, the homeland of the Metis, and we pay our respect to all Indigenous peoples of this place, reaffirming our relationship with one another.