Happy Birthday

Well, I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that June is the month when the Boy and I get together with friends and remember those that we have lost.  It’s too many people in my opinion.  But the James Peek Memorial Golf Tournament has done a lot of good in our community and that is the silver lining.

Each year, now 11 in total, all of my friends from High School get together and go golfing to celebrate our friend James’ birthday on June 30.  Yesterday he would have been 28.  We lost him when he was only 17.  Because of the Peek family, all of their friends and family a cheque is delivered to York Central Hospital in Richmond Hill for a LOT of money each year.  I didn’t have a good view last night – so I couldn’t see the number, but over the last 10 years they have rasied over $200 000.  The money has gone to support an Mental Health Library, an in-patient dining room, the James Peek Memorial Lectureship Series and the James Peek Mental Health Outpatient Services.

This year, the Mental Health Program at the hospital is creating a Mental Health series for high school students.  WOW! This is really exciting.  They have gone into schools and asked students 14-17 what issues they’re struggling with, what they want to hear about, and what they want their parents to know.  The answers included stress and pressure, depression, suicide and eating disorders just to name a few.  The hospital is creating a speaking series for students and their parents to try and prevent what happened with James, and what was experienced by his family, and his friends.

I lost my friend James to depression and to suicide. I lost my friend because no one he knew recognized the signs, or took the things he said that seemed “off” seriously.  I lost my friend because he didn’t feel safe to talk about how he was feeling.  As his Dad has said through tears every year, when you are deeply depressed it’s like you’re in the bottom of a well, all you see is black.  You are so far down that well – you can’t see the light at the top.   You feel like if you scream for help – no one will hear you.

I wish that my friend James had yelled louder for help.  And I hope that through this golf tournament, the James Peek Foundation and the new learning series that is being initiated in York Region schools,  that no other family or friends have to experience what James’ did.  It was awful.  It is awful. Depression is a treatable disease.  The only barrier is the stigma, we have to feel safe to talk about it.

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