Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Vicki Leaman shares the story of her son Taylor for Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, 2014

In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day, we are honoured to post this article written by one of our amazing and courageous volunteers, Vicki Leaman.  This also marks our return to the Mental Health in Mind blog, and we couldn't be more grateful to Vicki for sharing her story with us as we return to the blog after an extended break.  Please look for more regular posts and if you have a story or idea to share - and of course any comments on this post - please leave a comment below.

Vicki Leaman (R) Nicole Chin (L) and at Clara's Big Ride 2014

My name is Vicki Leaman. I lost my wonderful son Taylor on April 22, 2008. He was 18. Taylor was a very happy, smart, athletic, popular child until he turned 12.  He became a different person before my eyes and after about 7 or 8 months he was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.

My life became focused on trying to find him the right medication, therapy and school support.  Every day was trying to find the balance of encouraging him to go to school or his sports or letting him cope by staying home and playing video games or watching TV.

He made suicide attempts December 2006 and April 2007.

When he died in April 2008 it was overwhelming, my worst nightmare had come true and to make things worse, my sister had passed away just 11 days before.  I had lost my baby and my support system all at once.

I initially went into shock and became suicidal myself but I had wonderful friends that were there for me EVERY DAY and I have a daughter.  She was what kept me going.  She was in university and only had 6 months till graduation and every day I just kept thinking I couldn’t put her though losing her mother as well.  Once she graduated her convocation wasn’t for another 6 months and again I thought I needed to be there for her she had worked so hard and been through so much.  By then a year had passed and I got past other hurdles; going to the store, a walk, showering and brushing my teeth most days.  They sound like such every day, take for granted things but they were huge accomplishments in the beginning.  I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my medications, friends and therapist.

After about 18 months, I got angry.  Many holes in the health care and education systems had let my son down and also had made it difficult for me to find mental health support (I was diagnosed with PTSD and still suffer from controlled symptoms today).  And that’s when things changed.

I had been through the system and I knew things needed to change.  I wanted to make my son’s life to make a real difference and I could do that!  I am only one person and I can’t change the world but I do have friends, and they have friends, etc.

I decided my main focus would be the reduction of the mental health stigma through education.  I have:
  • Held parties to celebrate Taylor’s birthdays
  • Raised more than $4000 for the Adolescent Psychiatric Unit at Vancouver’s Children’s Hospital via a Pub night and in lieu of flower donations
  • Held an event for World Suicide Prevention Day Sept.10, 2011, with speakers from suffering from mental health Illnesses and representatives from various support agencies in our local area.

I’m currently working as a volunteer with CMHA and my community cultural center.

My life will never be the same and I still struggle with an emotional roller coaster but when I look back to the dark days and months after my son’s death I can see a big improvement.  I know others are making the same type of efforts I am.  Together we WILL make a difference!  For every person that is educated re mental health the negative stigma is weakened.  In the future, research for medications and therapies will make wonderful changes and mental health illnesses will receive the same support and understanding as cancer and AIDS do now.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Promoting Mental Health Week

National Mental Health Week may not be till May, but it's never too soon to start spreading the word. This year Mental Health Week is from May 7-13, 2012 and events will be taking place all across Canada.

CMHA's Mental Health Week is an annual event that takes place during the first week of May to encourage people from all walks of life to learn, talk, reflect and engage with others on all issues relating to mental health. The theme for this years week is mental health for all.

A great way to get involved with Mental Health Week is to help promote the national event. Some fun ideas on CMHA's website include:

  • Creating a living record of solutions that people in your community use to improve their mental health
  • Organize an event to discuss mental health and share the results via social media
  • Sponsor a local yoga teacher or wellness instructor to visit your local CMHA branch
  • Organize a service group to discuss the benefits of volunteering

This is the week to speak up about mental health. Sharing stories now can help raise awareness and involvement in this long running and important annual event. For more information about the upcoming Mental Health Week visit the media centre online.

Relax, Rejuvenate and Revive Yourself

CMHA VB is excited to launch a new website for 2012's Your Wellness Day. This years Wellness Day will be on Thursday, May 10th, 2012 during National Mental Health Week. Your Wellness Day is organized by CMHA VB and the MPA Society.

Your Wellness Day is a creative fundraiser that benefits local businesses, mental health organizations and overworked individuals. This mission based campaign will encourage people individually or in groups to explore the connection food, wellness services, physical activity and spirituality has on mental health by
visiting community vendors. The event will provide the opportunity to explore local health services.

Local businesses participating in the event benefit from event promotion, positive public image, a charitable tax receipt and a new customer base. In turn they donate 20% of their days profits to CMHA and the MPA Society. Unlike in the past when only spas and salons participated, this year participation will be opened up to all local businesses with a focus on mental health and general well being.

7th Annual Family Conference

CMHA VB is currently gearing up for the 7th Annual Family Conference taking place in one months time. The conference is put on by the CMHA, the Family Advisory Committee, Vancouver Coastal Health, the British Columbia Schizophrenic Society, and the Mood Disorders Assocation of British Columbia.

The goal of this conference is to promote awareness and understanding of serious mental illnesses and to promote family involvement in the mental health system.

The one day event will feature a opening key note speaker addressing the topic of genetics and mental illness. The rest of the morning will be spent with a variety of different workshops on stories of recovery, legal and financial planning, the well sibling experience and mental health in an aging population. Lunch will follow the workshops, and the afternoon will be dedicated to key note addressing understanding insight in mental health before ending with a family panel.

The conference isn't till next month, but register now to ensure your seat! Tickets are $35 for individuals and $50 for a family (up to four people). The conference will be taking place at the Paetzold Theatre at Vancouver General Hospital.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Has Sprung

The clocks have moved forward, the birds are chirping and blossoms are blooming - spring is here. Even the calendar marked the beginning of Spring with the first day of the equinox yesterday and Nowruz celebrations across the city.

So what does this all mean besides bathing suit season approaching? Time to dust off your attitude and do a spring cleaning of both your house and your health!

New years resolutions are hard to keep in the middle of winter. Instead of making unrealistic resolutions for spring, try making healthier everyday small changes. Embrace the new season and activities that all become more fun as the weather warms including:

  • Walking - an easy way to incorporate more exercise into your day, and now longer days allow for evening strolls
  • Bring your workout outdoors - jump on a bike, go for a kayak or try a hike
  • Farmers markets - this time of year markets are popping up all over the city and provide a way to access fresh and local food
  • seasonal festivals and events - check online to find all sorts of fun and free events to attend reconnect with your family
  • Soak up the sun - a little vitamin D can go a long way in helping your brain work later in life (just don't forget the sunscreen)
Enjoy the signs of spring! Take the opportunites presented to declutter your brain, try new things and make healthy new habits part of your everyday routine.

Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Minds

Last month we discussed the mental health conference Bottom Line; a two day event all about mental health in the workplace. This is a current hot topic as the Mental Health Commission of Canada also touched upon the health workplaces in their monthly newsletter.

The MHCC reveals a report by Martin Shain, PhD all about how to create conditions that lead to a healthy workplace for both employers and employees. Shain defines a healthy workplace as one that makes all efforts to protect the mental health of its employees. Besides creating a healthy environment, employees need acknowledgement, resources and support to be happy in their jobs.

Shain outlines five steps workplaces can take to reduce risks that could lead to to mental illness:

1) Routinely identify psychological and physical job hazards that could lead to risks

2) Conduct regular internal reviews of data pertaining to mental health of employees

3) Have a system in place to respond to risks in an organized and prioritized way

4) Have access to a broad range of information that provides validated practical responses to risks

5) Create and implement policies and procedures concerning the prevention and management of mental health disorders

Be proactive in your workplace and take these steps as a way to create healthy spaces for happy employees.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Get Set & Connect

Get Set & Connect is a program designed to help adults living with mental illness make connections and form meaningful relationships with others through activities in their community. The program offers a variety of programming including one to one coaching, connecting through small group activities and monthly networking sessions.

The monthly networking sessions allow for participants to connect and meet one another, as well as learning about all the different activities available in the program. The meetings take place twice a month, one in the evening and one in the afternoon to allow everyone the opportunity to attend. Each of the meetings include:

  • A chance for introductions and describing leisure activities that you enjoy
  • An explanation of what to expect at the meetings
  • An activity to help people better understand what they enjoy in the way of activities and how they can pursue them
  • Advertising of activity groups that Gets Set & Connect offer
  • Success stories about Get Set & Connect activities and the networking meetings
  • A list of free events for the coming week in Vancouver
  • A chance for feedback
The next Get Set & Connect meeting is next Tuesday March 13th at 7 p.m. The meeting will be taking place at Rhizome Cafe located at 317 East Broadway - a short stroll from CMHA Vancouver-Burnaby.