'Reaching out is important'
Oxford County Youth Suicide Prevention Committee member Jennilee Cook embraced Paulie O'Byrne - founder of the I'm One in Five Foundation - when he entered the parking lot at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) building on Peel Street in Woodstock after he travelled 22 kilometres on inline skates from Thamesford to Woodstock on Saturday to participate in CMHA Oxford's World Suicide Prevention Day event. JOHN TAPLEY/SENTINEL-REVIEW
Connect, communicate and care.
Those three words were at the heart of Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Oxford's World Suicide Prevention Day event on Saturday.
“We are here to listen and we are here to help,” said Kathlene Campbell-Conlon, community engagement and volunteer development coordinator with CMHA Oxford. “Reaching out is important.”
Held at the CMHA building on Peel Street and an adjacent city parking lot, Saturday's event included guest speaker Erica Humphrey – a Woodstock native and author of the book I Am My Own Superhero.
Paulie O'Byrne, a London resident and founder of the I'm One in Five movement, travelled 22 kilometres from Thamesford to Woodstock on inline skates to participate and share his story.
Musician Sarah Smith performed Angels and Acres – a song she and O'Byrne co-wrote.
There was also a free barbecue, games, a drum circle, art, laughter yoga, a butterfly release and other activities.
Twenty-five community agencies were represented in an information fair, which is up significantly over last year.
“They all have some sort of piece about empowerment and change,” said Jennilee Cook, a member of the Oxford County Youth Suicide Prevention Committee.
She said Saturday's event was about promoting a sense of belonging and letting people know they are not alone.
“You don't have to struggle on your own and you don't have to help people on your own.”
That's something Woodstock resident Julie Boyse has discovered in the two years since depression and anxiety led to her nervous breakdown.
Describing herself as an overachiever and hard worker, Boyse said she was working too many hours and not looking after herself.
“I was on my Blackberry morning and night,” she said. “It was the first thing I did when my eyes opened in the morning and the last thing I did when I went to bed.”
She said the more she worked the more it affected her social life.
“I started cancelling social activities because I had to work.”
Then she got sick with a fever and was still going to work.
“Three days later I decided I can't do this anymore, I have to look after myself,” Boyse said.
She sent an e-mail to her employer and co-workers, explaining her situation.
Then when she was telling her mother about work she started screaming at the top of her lungs.
“When I stopped screaming, I collapsed in a chair and for about three months after that I could walk back and forth from my bedroom to the bathroom and that was about it,” Boyse said. “I couldn't talk, I was just physically exhausted.”
She she said continued to work from home, communicating through e-mail and Blackberry messenger to give her something to focus on.
“My mind would have really negative thoughts if I just sat without doing anything.”
Going to see her doctor, Boyse was diagnosed with having experienced a nervous breakdown.
Not realizing what a nervous breakdown or depression really are, Boyse said she thought she'd be back to work in a couple of weeks.
Her company's human resources department contacted her and told her to take time off.
“I'd never had a sick day,” Boyse said
Boyse said she was encouraged to take up reading and spend time with family, but she felt irritated and frustrated.
“It didn't feel like it was safe to be around anyone else.”
She started seeing a psychologist and that's when things began to turn around.
“I really wish I had the courage to reach out to him way before it ever happened.”
Boyse said she started learning ways of coping with anxiety and depression.
She also heard Christine Hillis speak at the Southgate Centre about her own similar experiences and Boyse said it gave her hope.
“It was somebody I could relate to and know that it wasn't just me that went through this.”
She said she would have reached out to CMHA resources, but she “just didn't know” they were there.
“Had I known about it, I definitely would have.”
Now that she does know, Boyse is helping spread the word by volunteering with CMHA Oxford.
“It's something I wanted to get involved in to help other people and be able to share my story and how important self care, self love and gratitude are. You don't have to be diagnosed with an illness to reach out for help.”
Now a yoga and meditation instructor and life coach and therapeutic touch practitioner, Boyse encourages people to strike a good work/life balance and take time for themselves.
“It's so important and if you need help doing that reach out to your local CMHA,” she said. “There's so many people out there who can help.”
Boyse said awareness events like the one in Woodstock on Saturday are “hugely” important.
“It gives a place for people to connect and there's no pressure and you can learn about a lot of resources without being labeled.”