Tag Archives: mental illness

Eileen | Home of the Brave

“And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” Joni Mitchell, Woodstock.

For many of us, finding our way “back to the garden” is difficult simply because we have forgotten where it is!

When Jeanne and I were married 23 years ago, Jeanne’s niece Eileen was the flower girl at our wedding ceremony. At the time she was 3 years old.

Eileen has since grown into a “child of the 60s.” Her interest in the environment, Middle Eastern spiritual philosophies and women’s rights reminds me of similar values coveted by a generation active thirty odd years before Eileen was even born.

But it would be unfair to dismiss the values and ambitions of Eileen’s generation as inexperience, idealism or simple naivety. Our youth are – and always have been – our last great hope.

So the fact the majority of mental illnesses emerge during adolescence should concern us all! We must do what we can to help eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness so its emergence can be diagnosed and treated as soon as humanly possible.

The first step is letting our children know that it’s OK for them to talk about how they feel.

My mom told me about your project, Home of the Brave. I think it’s really awesome. I didn’t know that you had suffered with mental illness. It can be hard to talk about because I think there’s still a lot of stigma. I think if you can be brave to share your story, I can too. If you need any more stories then I would be happy to be one for you – Eileen.

Silver gelatin print
Hasselblad 500c
Hasselblad 80mm f2.8 lens
Ilford HP5, ISO 400

 

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Joy | Home of the Brave

In the summer of 2013, Joy’s 20 year old son Eric Schmit took his own life.

Su•i•cide: from the Latin sui “of oneself” and cidium “a killing,” literally “killing oneself.”

It is unfortunate the word suicide is indelibly associated with the verb kill. Add the ubiquitous phrase committed suicide and we begin to understand the Herculean effort required to focus on suicide prevention rather than toxic, moral judgements that serve only to fuel stigma. Survivors of suicide loss, those left behind, avoid use of the term “committed”; the language itself hearkens back to the time and place not so long ago when the act of taking one’s own life was considered a criminal act. How can we possibly hope to have an honest conversation about suicide if the word itself is considered taboo?

Enter Joy Pavelich.

Joy is the Communications Lead for the Canadian Mental Health Association of Calgary. Whether she is writing for the CMHA’s Balance Blog, leading the team which organizes annual mental illness awareness events such as Ride Don’t Hide or Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, building a youth mental health strategy, or personally working on her upcoming book Chasing My Son Across Heaven, Joy is the tireless, inspirational mental health advocate our city so desperately needs.

Ending the stigma around mental illness and suicide in particular is not for the faint of heart. Some would consider it a calling not a job, a vocation rather than a career. The amount of commitment, resilience and courage required could only come from someone who knows what it feels like to be “left behind.”

Joy’s calling manifested itself immediately after Eric’s death when her instincts told her to talk openly about Eric’s suicide and not “cloak it in the died suddenly and unexpectedly euphemism.” Since Eric’s passing, Joy and her sons – Justin and Conner – have spent the years trying to “realign as a family without their middle child, without their glue.”

Ask Joy and she will promptly tell you “the two brave ones are Justin and Conner, they are the heroes in this story.”

Justin’s mixed martial arts gym, Apex MMA, is their sanctuary where Joy, Justin and Conner can be close to Eric. In Justin’s words, “The gym was Eric’s dream. It’s what he wanted to do.” Here, in honour of Eric’s journey, the family strives to help others find a sense of serenity, and in that peace.

The Warrior’s Code by Eric Schmit
You’re a fighter.
You’ve got the spirit of a warrior;
The champion’s heart.

I can’t help but think that Eric was thinking of his mother when he wrote this.

Silver gelatin print
Hasselblad 500c
Hasselblad 80mm f2.8 lens
Ilford HP5, ISO 400

 

 

 

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