No one saw it coming. Perhaps the victim did – a Mother’s intuition. Her son struggled with mental illness. She was responsible for his care. Her screams that morning from the comfort of her home were loud enough to alert the neighbours that something was terribly wrong. When police arrived at the home in Blackstock – a small Ontario village — they found Rita without vital signs and suffering from numerous stab wounds.
The following day Durham Regional Police announced on their web site that the victim’s 25-year-old son had been charged with second degree murder. For those who knew her personally — Rita, 57, was a good friend, neighbour and community member. Active in the local Garden Club, she was enjoying early retirement. No one will know what triggered the intense rage that drove her only child, a son and the accused, to fatally stab his mother. Nothing will justify the tragedy that unfolded that day. Rita loved her son. Like many families who struggle to cope with a family member suffering from a mental illness, she took him in when the system could not provide the support he needed. This story has a particularly sad and painful ending. It didn’t and doesn’t have to be that way.
The theme of this year’s Canadian Mental Health Awareness Week was “Get Loud”, a shared call to action to address the stigma of mental health. November 19 marks International Men’s Day and the month of “Movember” represents a world-wide initiative that began as a way to fight prostate cancer but has since expanded to deal with all men’s health issues – including mental health.
Why Mental Health focused on Men and Boys?
According to the Movember Foundation, globally, a man dies every minute from suicide. The CMHA recognizes that men are more likely than women to develop schizophrenia at a younger age. Men, regardless of age group, often don’t recognize when they’re experiencing a mental health issue, and may not be comfortable asking for help. The uncomfortable truth is that some stereotypical forms of masculinity are killing men (and innocent victims like Rita).
The Movember Foundation is currently funding initiatives that:
- Develop successful, scalable models to improve the mental health and well-being of men.
- Challenge the negative aspects of masculinity and the impact it can have on mental health
- Encourage men to stay connected with friends and family
- Bring conversations about mental health out of the health system (and into the workplace for example)
Recently, The Mane Intent hosted a workshop for men, mostly veterans, who are learning to manage their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The day gave them an opportunity to benefit from the calming presence of our healing herd of horses. Many were surprised by the experience. It also gave them an opportunity to share and talk about the challenges they experience with their PTSD. Their shared walk with the horses that day was a wonderful metaphor for their shared work and journey towards a state of well-being. The benefits of equine assisted learning or therapy are increasingly being recognized favourably for the treatment of a variety of mental health challenges – including PTSD.
But Getting Loud and talking about mental health is what must happen for attitudes to change. We must stop the belief that mental illness is a choice or weakness. We must eliminate the stigma that stops people from seeking help. This year, CMHA’s annual awareness campaign focused on the mental health of men and boys. They advocate for changing the messages men and boys receive so they can learn new lessons. For example,
- It’s ok for boys and men to express emotions
- It’s necessary for boys and men to take care of themselves
- Work-life balance is important for men, too
- Success can be defined by their own criteria, which may include mental health, health relationships and happiness.
It’s pleasing to see that a number of organizations in our neighbourhood are marking International Men’s Day (Nov. 19) with an event called “Puzzled? Putting the Pieces Together of Men’s Mental Health.” Offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge, Kawartha Sexual Assault, the John Howard Society, the Peterborough Police Service and Fleming College’s Men of Strength Team, the event is an opportunity for men to have conversations about mental health. For details go to: http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/puzzled-putting-to-gether-the-pieces-of-mens-mental-health-tickets-19078664800
So let’s have those conversations – sometimes difficult, but always necessary. Let’s do it for our loved ones, for our co-workers and our friends. Let’s do it for mothers like Rita so they can support their family members in need without fearing for their safety and so we never have to share a story like hers again.
About Us: Jennifer Garland is the Owner/Program Director for The Mane Intent. At The Mane Intent, we create unique learning experiences for individuals, couples, small groups and teams interested in exploring what’s possible in life and work with a little horse power. Check out our video here