For more than a decade, Bell Let’s Talk Day has encouraged Canadians to talk about their mental health challenges, while offering hope to those who are struggling. Many Canadians are experiencing increased stress, anxiety, and depression right now as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with youth aged 15-24 experiencing the greatest decline in their mental health. But Operation Lifesaver wants to remind anyone who is struggling right now that they’re not alone.
In June 2021, Operation Lifesaver launched its Today is Better campaign—which consists of 11 poignant and hopeful videos (six English and five French) featuring the personal stories of Canadians who’ve experienced mental health challenges and suicidal thoughts but found help. Valérie Marchand is one of the people who shared her story. She has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, but she is proof that reaching out can make all the difference. Here’s part of Valérie story:
When did you first begin struggling with your mental health?
In fact, when I started having dark thoughts, I was going through stressful moments in my life. My grandmother had just died, I had changed jobs, I had also changed apartments. I felt that I was losing control of my thoughts and emotions. I was really anxious. I didn’t understand why I was starting to have panic attacks. I didn’t understand at all actually. I wanted to tell my loved ones about it, but I wasn’t able to. I thought it was an episode that was going to pass. In fact, I no longer felt myself and I could not calm down. I tried to reason with myself, but it only made me more anxious.
Can you describe how you felt at that time?
It seemed like the emotion I felt was like a whirlwind. I couldn’t see the rest around me. I was trying to understand that emotion, that anxiety. It was a feeling of unease, but it was so strong that I felt isolated and I was not able to get help. I really felt pain. It was a mental pain, but I also felt it physically. And was really very exhausting. At some point, it became unsustainable.
Looking back, what do you think about that moment?
Where I am now, I realize that at that time, I needed help. I didn’t want to go looking for any, but I just needed, I think, to talk to someone to explain how I was, instead of feeling alone with all my problems. So just getting out of there and going talk to someone might have helped me.
What was the turning point for you?
After my suicide attempt, it looked like it started to get better. That’s because when I made the attempt, I quickly realized that I didn’t want to die. I was scared and, after doing so, I didn’t want to die. So I called a friend, and she was the one who brought me to the hospital. She was there for me. At the hospital, they told me about the Trois-Rivières Suicide Prevention Centre. I stayed there. I think they are the ones who really helped me. They have workshops there, they help you understand your feelings, they give you tips about moments of crisis you may have, tools to not see suicide as an option, and they also help you a little to forgive yourself so as not to feel guilty.
How are doing today?
I wouldn’t say I’m doing great all the time. But I don’t have these dark ideas anymore. Sometimes I have a little moment of stress, so I go out, I just do something else to get out of the situation a little bit and take the time to breathe, and sometimes it gets better.
I think when people have dark ideas like that, it’s important to confide in anyone actually. Either people are afraid of being judged or, sometimes, a bit like I experienced it, people believe that it will get better, that it does not matter, that it will just pass. But I think it’s important that people talk about it right away, that they don’t go so far as to be caught up in dark ideas where they don’t find other solutions.
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.
If you know someone who is struggling with their mental health, you can find resources to support them at: https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/toolkit. We all have a part to play in supporting mental health; post your “story of hope” to social media using the hashtags #TodayIsBetter and #BellLetsTalk, and join the conversation today.