Sharing stories of hope: Pier-Alexandre Auger-Matteau
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions in Canada. In fact, more than 30% of people will be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at some point in their lifetime. Pier-Alexandre Auger-Matteau is one of the many Canadians who has struggled with this challenging mental health condition. But reaching out and getting help has made all the difference for him.
Operation Lifesaver’s (OL’s) Today is Better campaign is a way to let Canadians know that they don’t need to struggle alone. The suicide-prevention public-awareness campaign consists of 11 poignant and hopeful videos (six English and five French) featuring the personal stories of Canadians, like Pier-Alexandre, who’ve experienced suicidal thoughts but found help. Here’s part of his story:
How did your struggles with mental health begin?
Basically, I had a post-traumatic shock because I experienced things... I had little self-esteem – I was looking for myself a lot. Then I tried to find a lot of answers in drugs, alcohol, all addictions in general. Everything that was harmful to me and that allowed me not to feel my distress. Then I got into trouble with a lot of situations – financial, with my loved ones. I would say that moment in my life was a not particularly glorious event. It lasted for two, three years — I would say it was really disabling.
What was the tipping point for you?
I wanted to take my own life because I thought it was the solution to stop feeling the pain. I was no longer able to endure it. I simply cracked. Then I said, “Okay, I’m either committing suicide or I have to seek help.” I gave myself a chance, and it’s the best chance I’ve ever given myself.
What difference did reaching out make for you?
At first, I was skeptical. I was not open to that. But today I realize that seeing someone for my anxiety problems is the best thing I’ve ever done. These are things that can be settled, that we can learn to manage. Today I don’t have anxiety at all, so it’s proof that it was the right thing to do.
What would your advice be to someone who is struggling with anxiety and suicidal thoughts?
There are solutions. There are people who specialize in treating mental health. Honestly, all I would tell is to get these tools. Do it for yourself. You deserve it. You may think you don’t deserve it because you were not loved for most of your life... but you deserve it.
What have you learned through this whole experience?
If there is one thing to remember in my journey, it is that I thought for a long time that I was alone in the world, which was not the case. You are not alone in the world. You deserve to help yourself, you deserve life as much as anyone else. I know that you want to stop suffering. But suicide is not the solution, and it never will be. If I succeeded ― from nothing, from the bottom of the barrel ― to finally be happy and love life, it means that you too can do it.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, a trained responder is ready to listen. Call 1-833-456-4566 (Canada) or 1-866-APPELLE (Quebec), anytime day or night. And to hear stories of real people who’ve reached out for help, visit todayisbetter.ca.