Sharing stories of hope: Lana Poulson

Transgender (trans) people are more likely to suffer from mental illness than the general population. They’re also at a greater risk for suicide—a fact Lana Poulson knows all too well.The Ottawa trans woman has suffered with anxiety and depression for much of her life. But she reached out and got help.  
Operation Lifesaver’s (OL’s)new Today is Better campaign is a way to let Canadians, like Lana, know that help is just a phone call away—and 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 Lana who’ve experienced suicidal thoughts. Here’s part of Lana’s story:

How long have you struggled with your mental health?

My issues started probably when I was struggling with my gender back in my late teens. I always thought I was a girl, from a young age. But growing up, my parents were just very strict about not letting me be who I wanted to be, which was to be a girl. I wanted my parents to accept me and accept my choices to be who I wanted to be. They just wouldn't let me live my authentic self. 
And so, the depression probably started at that age and then it just sort of got worse as I got older. And so I pushed a lot of my depression below the surface. I mean, sometimes I would blow up on them, which wasn't that great. But I tried to live as “male-ish” as they wanted until at least my early twenties.

When did thoughts of suicide begin?

I first tried to take my own life in 1998. And then it probably wasn't until my late twenties that I thought it would just be better if I just wasn't around. I was just in a really deep depression and my anxiety was really, really bad. I didn't have a lot of friends at the time and so I thought taking my life was the answer; I thought everyone around me would be better off without having to deal with my depression and my outbursts and my anxiety. I didn't like my life. I didn't like not having a relationship. I didn't like myself. It came down to not liking myself and not loving myself and not liking my life. And that's what sort of made me decide to just end it.

What changed?
I learned to love myself unconditionally and think positively because positive thoughts are harder to think than negative thoughts. Negative thoughts will kill you. I've been in therapy and I'm still in therapy today. I go once a month and it's just good to be able to bounce your feelings and thoughts off somebody that doesn’t know you, but they know enough about you. And I just wake up every day with a positive feeling or positive thought, and I don't worry about the problems that I had yesterday because I can't deal with those problems. You can only think about today.

What would your message be to someone who may be gay or transgender, who is thinking of suicide? 

I have to say that if you're trying to hurt yourself or you're wanting to kill yourself, please don't because you have so much life to live. Your parents love you, your friends deep down really do love you, even if you may think that they don't. You have a purpose. What that purpose is right now, you may not know, but you will find out if you just stick around. Just stick around a bit longer, it will get better and if I can do it, you can do it too.

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