Here I am, enjoying a great game between my beloved Leafs and the despised Ottawa Senators. The game is going real well with my team up 5-0 and it looks like it’s going to be a huge win for us. But I find my thoughts being on something else…
This weekend’s game in Ottawa happens to also be a promotion for D.I.F.D., which stands for “Do It For Daron”. D.I.F.D. is a youth driven program that is focused on raising awareness and conversations about youth mental health. Daron Richardson is the daughter of NHL player Luke Richardson. On November 12, 2010, she took her own life after a long struggle with mental health illness. Daron was 14 years old.
Watching the game but thinking about Daron, I felt incredibly sad. I was reminded of my own struggle with depression…the long period of darkness, despair, fear and hopelessness. The fear of the stigma of being on medication. The feeling of walking up to the pharmacy counter for the first time with an anti-depressant prescription and feeling like every eye in the store was on me. Misunderstanding from people who were close to me…all those memories came back.
Looking at where I am today, I feel so fortunate. Millions of Canadians struggle with mental health illnesses (1 in 5 Canadians will suffer from a mental illness at some poin in their lives)…many of those stories have tragic endings. But they don’t have to. If we learn to talk about it openly and honestly, if those of us who have experienced mental illness share our struggles and our stories to encourage others, perhaps more people will open up about their own issues and receive the support they need.
In my last concert “Crazy Hope” which was dedicated to raising awareness for mental health issues, people told me afterwards that the concert had opened doors for conversations. Thinking about Daron tonight, I realize that I must keep talking, keep making music, keep tearing down the stigma associated with mental illness, keep opening those doors for conversations so that stories like Daron’s can have a different ending.
Chances are you know someone who is struggling with a mental health issue. I invite you to get involved and help. Talk with them. Research to find local programs and services that is available. Encourage them to reach out for help. D.I.F.D., Do It For Daron, Do It For Your Friend.