Wednesday, September 30, 2009

“It’s good that you appreciate those letters...”

I have been in an unusually terrible mood this week and haven't been shy to let everyone around aware of this. Today was no exception - I woke up in a bad mood. I was tired, angry, anxious, and annoyed. Many of these symptoms are in line with Borderline Personality Disorder (visit, for my story), but the yucky fall weather hasn't been helping either. Regardless, I've plowed through this week with the hope that tomorrow will be better than the last.

Today is the final day to submit a personal essay to the Youth Advisory Committee for the Honouring Life Network (HLN). The HLN is looking for First Nations, Inuit and Métis youth between the ages of 17-30 to contribute their experiences with suicide and/or mental illness. If selected, youth are asked to contribute to projects of the HLN and suicide prevention initiatives.

Until this afternoon I hadn't really looked at any of the essays. A part of me really didn't know what to expect from these essays. Would they be irrelevant? Inappropriate? Graphic? Upsetting? Suicide and mental illness are difficult subjects to discuss with a family member or friend, much less to openly share personal experiences with a complete stranger (or in this case, a national organization).

Twenty-six essays, five provinces and two territories later, I started to read some of the submissions.

What happened next is difficult to describe but can be captured in an e-mail I shared with a close friend:

Me: "I'm reading all of these essays for the HLN youth advisory committee and my goodness they're making me tear up. The strength of some of these youth is just so freakin' remarkable." (Yes, I said 'freakin'. I told you it was difficult to describe.)

Friend (who asked to remain nameless): "We work in an incredibly powerful system - complex and hard to interpret, navigate and change.  I spent part of my day yesterday listening to a group of people talk to me about having Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) disease – one with not long to live.  It's good that we get reminded, up front and personal why it is we chose to do this work.   It is often times thankless, lacks appreciation, formal acknowledgement, or recognition that we are making an impact.  It's good that you appreciate those letters." 


In this instance, I was reminded that I have the best job in the world. To the youth who shared their stories - thank you. Your strength, resilience, knowledge, and eagerness to talk about suicide and mental illness are absolutely astonishing. I am so proud to be a part of this project and I couldn't wipe this smile from my face if I tried.


For more information on the HLN Youth Advisory Committee please visit:


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