A few years ago I became ill, very ill. I know now that I was mentally ill. I was depressed. I didn’t understand at the time just how sick I was, or how dangerous depression can become if left untreated. That’s why although it is hard, it’s important I share my story so I can help others. Like any illness, it can happen to anyone, but unlike other illnesses, mental illness often comes with a stigma, a helplessness that stopped me from seeking treatment. I didn’t feel like I was deserving of help. Mental illness can be life threatening if it goes untreated. And for me, I had a close call.
My hope is others will listen when I say you can get to a place where you wake up, safe and warm surrounded by professionals who say, ‘what you have is treatable and curable and you will be fine.’ To those around me I appeared to be a happy, successful 49-year-old male, with a great job, a wonderful wife, two amazing kids, and a lovely home. Yet, behind all of that, I was silently suffering, a pain I chose to hide it from everyone at work, my friends, and my family. I was trying to hang on every day...just to make it through one more.
Early one morning, after another sleepless night, I walked through my home for what I thought was the very last time, silently saying goodbye to my family as they slept. I walked out the front door, leaving my house and headed downtown to the streets to live, to figure out my next steps. I was so sad, and scared, and cold.
I decided to go to my office that morning one last time, and I sat in my office as it became daylight. My wife called me mid-morning and asked me to come home. That night I was admitted as a live-in patient at a Toronto psych unit.
I was quickly diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, which, because it had gone untreated had progressed to a very dangerous stage with psychotic features.
In a couple of weeks of living in a psych ward, with proper medication and counselling, I started to feel better. After three weeks, I started a four-week live-in cognitive behavior therapy program. Now, I am better than ever. I have been taught the skills, found the support and have new insight about how to live a fuller life.
St. Joseph’s is my local hospital. Our family has used it many times when our kids were growing up, and the staff are amazing. So when I was looking for a way to get involved and help others with mental illness, my friend Dave Raymond suggested I come to an evening at the hospital and take a tour of the mental health emergency ward. What I saw that night motivated me to become involved in their efforts to improve the facility.
When you are not well and finally decide to seek help, it’s very important that the medical facility be a peaceful and welcoming space. Right now, the space falls short. However, the vision is to make it better. And thanks to support from neighbours like you and me, it’s possible.
“In 2009, I was brought to St. Joe’s by my sister. My life was literally upside down and I was looking for an easy way out. Not living too far from St. Joe’s, my sister found out there was a great mental health ward and brought me in. That was really when my recovery mindset began.”
Brad spent three weeks visiting St. Joe’s Mental Health Outpatient Unit following his initial visit to the Mental Health Emergency Services Unit.
“Out of all the places I have sought mental health and addiction care, St. Joe’s is the one place that treats you like a human being. When people finally get the courage and pride to come and ask for help, it is a big step. From the very first day I came to St. Joe’s, a very broken man with my sister by my side, the doctors treated me like an individual, like I was a friend. People who suffer from mental health issues need that friendly face to start, and the rest follows.”
The need to revitalize and expand the Mental Health Emergency Services Unit is a cause Brad can attest to first-hand.
“There are hospitals in the city of Toronto that have special units for kids, and you see how important that environment is for making children comfortable. Making the physical surroundings of the Mental Health Emergency Services Unit more warm, welcoming and secure is critical to recovery. It may be just one piece of the puzzle, but it is an important one.”
Brad hopes his story will inspire others to come forward, ask for help, and know they are not alone. He says his experience at St. Joe’s has stuck with him during his battle with mental health and addiction.
Now, three years clean and sober, Brad looks back at the weeks he spent at St. Joe’s and is thankful.
“This place has stuck with me. It’s always been in me since I left. St. Joe’s is just really special, and more people need to know about it.”
By supporting this year’s St. Joe’s Plate, you are bringing much needed awareness and funding to mental health and addictions care in our west-end community. Thank you for making a difference.