Protecting Minds - 'I lost my son to suicide'

It was 2018 when Mark realized something was wrong mentally. After being diagnosed with anxiety, he didn’t want to deal with his feelings.

A few months passed and he lost his home to a fire and his symptoms worsened. Myself, my husband and our other two children noticed changes to his mood and behaviours.

I lost my son to suicide in May of 2019.

My family and I decided we wanted others to know that just because mental illness isn’t visible doesn’t mean it’s not there. We wanted to share Mark’s story to save others.

Mark was a father of two who was always passionate about baseball. We founded “Baseball for Dad” in Mark’s memory where we place gloves around the world to bring awareness to mental illness. The initiative focuses on “knocking stigma out of the park.”

Others wanted to be involved so now we mail the cards to go with gloves to those interested in carrying the conversation. When the glove is found, we encourage people to share it on social media and share their story.

To date, 149 gloves have been placed. People began to follow along and help change the views of mental illness.

Baseball for Dad spiraled into “buddy benches,” designed to promote kindness, friendship and inclusivity. We place red benches with bats and a ball, a deer and a bear on public spaces. We now have 11 benches placed. The benches signify sparking conversation about mental health.

Following both successes, we implemented another initiative within schools - the kindness moose, where we donate a stuffed moose each month to a school and present it to a student who promotes kindness. It’s a symbol of Mark’s memory where we are given the opportunity to share his story.

I am 47 and from a small town – Maynooth, Ontario. Never would I have imagined Baseball for Dad would turn into the impactful initiative it is today. There is power in conversation and we will continue to fight the stigma so more voices can be heard.

As a developmental service worker, I help people with disabilities reach their goals. The pandemic has influenced the individuals I see as there has been a change in their normal routine. Some disabilities make it difficult to understand what a pandemic is, impacting their understanding of not socializing and fully participating in their community.

Some days are harder than others, but I am hopeful I can brighten the days of others struggling not only at work but in society as well. I want to do more.

That’s why I am supporting Ontario Shores for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores). If I know someone struggling can have a positive recovery and one life can be saved, I will do everything to advocate for their organization.  

I will continue to push to end the stigma and bring awareness to mental illness. Ontario Shores is a wonderful place to reach healing and recovery, especially for those who cannot take those steps on their own. 

Beginning during Mental Illness Awareness Week and throughout October, Ontario Shores and the Ontario Shores Foundation for Mental Health are embarking on a fundraising campaign to support programs and initiatives that assist people living with mental illness. Participants from all over Ontario volunteered to share their personal connection with mental illness to reduce stigma and increase funding for much-needed programs. Learn more at www.ProtectingMinds.ca.