WHY I SING, TALK AND WALK FOR MENTAL HEALTH

I lost my best friend to a mental illness. He was charismatic, bright, kind, adventurous, funny, so  talented and loved by so so many. He suffered, he fought, and despite every effort and by no fault of his own, he didn’t get the right support, combination of medical help and resources to help him win his battle.

And just like cancer or heart disease overtakes a healthy body, his mental illness overtook his once healthy brain and eventually overpowered him leaving him unable to fight back. The world is at a loss and is a very different place without him.

Back in his day, we were in the dark, we weren’t where we are today – which is just the beginning of the end of stigma surrounding mental illness. Neuroscience, the medical community, the general public…we are taking steps to better understand mental illness and for that, I am grateful and hopeful.

I also, in an ambiguous way, lost my brother to a mental illness when he was 27. While I continue to be one of his primary caregivers, and he is stable and is doing as well as he can be living with schizophrenia, the brother that I once knew is, in a way, hidden and tucked away behind the shadows of his illness. In his case, he is lucky to have recently received tremendous support because of his amazing social worker. Due to all the resources she has put in place for him, I am happy to say that I feel reacquainted with my brother. (She is also the reason for me getting involved in the Walk! see below).

As I share my story with others, it’s as if I am granted an all access pass to family, friend’s and stranger’s rooms. Secret rooms of stories full of courage, an aching tenacity, yet a hardship that suffers so silently. The number of friends, friends of friends, family members who suffer from depression/anxiety or another mental illness in complete darkness astonishes me. Stats tell me that 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 suffer from a mental illness, but I would argue the numbers to be far reaching and greater. In my journey, I encounter 1 or 2 degrees of separation between myself and a courageous warrior.

So I am talking. I have been quiet for many years. While I have written songs about my love ones who have suffered, I have not spoken about it.

Now, I feel it is the right time for me, to both talk AND act, to advocate, to replace unnecessary uncalled-for shame surrounding the stigma of mental illness and replace it with whatever action I can muster to stir up this needed current of change.

I am using my background in Marketing and Communications to focus on promoting mental health wellness, reducing stigma and shedding light on resources and support in our communities. I feel honoured to have been asked by a group of mental health non-for-profit organizations & out-reach programs that service and support, to help organize and promote the Walk for Mental Health in the West Island (Montreal) May 6th, 2017 at Parc-nature Cap St. Jacques at 9 am.

If you are in the area, and want to put talk into action, then please join us! Or volunteer!! Support us by liking their page and donating. If you are a local corporation and would like to sponsor the Walk, then contact me. The goal of the Walk is to create awareness for mental health resources that exist in our community. It has been my experience that at times, caregivers and individuals suffering do not know who to go to or how to get support. Through this community grass-roots initiative, we are hoping to change that. By uniting, we will not only help to fight stigma, but create awareness for resources & help those suffering feel more supported.

I am also very happy (and excited) to announce that I am working towards completing my 3rd album. Making music is my grounding force and has given me strength to see beauty in despair, hope within hardship. I am hoping it will somehow take on a shape of its own but congruently, feed my advocacy and amplify my voice and the voice of others who are courageously struggling to source their own light.

Lastly, thanks Bell for lighting the torch. May we all take turns carrying it and never ever feel in the dark again. JOIN OUR CAUSE! It is free to register for the Walk but donations are welcome on www.facebook.com/mentalhealthwalk – ‘SIGN UP’ button will lead you to donations page.

Love,

Paula Toledo

www.facebook.com/paulatoledomusic

WEST ISLAND WALK FOR MENTAL HEALTH

WHEN: 9 AM (Registration) 10 AM (Walk, 2 km or 5 km)

WHERE: Parc-nature CAP ST. JACQUES, 20099 Boulvard Gouin West, Pierrefonds, QC H9K 1C6

*Rain or shine. Dogs on leash are welcome. Walkers are encouraged to wear yellow or green. Singer-Songwriter Neema (www.neema.ca) will be performing a set after the walk.

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