If you’re struggling with your mental health, the world can feel like a very lonely place. It may seem like there’s no way out and no one to turn to. But help is only a phone call away—and Operation Lifesaver’s (OL’s) new suicide-prevention public-awareness campaign is reminding Canadians of that.
The Today is Better campaign consists of 11 poignant and hopeful videos (six English and five French) featuring the personal stories of Canadians who’ve experienced suicidal thoughts, but found help. Shane Partridge is one of those survivors. The Saskatoon man says he felt isolated and alone as a child, and made attempts to end his own life. Hewas later diagnosed with depression, OCD, anxiety, and PTSD.For decades, he turned to alcohol and drugs to deal with his mental health issues and ended up involved with gangs and living on the streets. But at 35, he realized his drinking was life-threatening—and he got help.Here’s part of his story:
What do you think led you to experience suicidal thoughts?
I grew up on a farm, so there wasn't a whole lot of other kids in the neighborhood to go out and play with. You couldn't just go across the street to the neighbour's house. And being alone and on the farm started making me feel like I was out of place, like I didn't belong. I didn't fit in as a kid and I didn't understand it. And I didn't have any guidance to let anybody know that I was going through this.
At nine or ten, I started stealing things like alcohol or cigarettes from my parents and I started drinking by myself. I guess that’s when these mental health challenges really started to poke their head out. And that's when I started exploring a way out. It wasn't that I wanted to commit suicide. It wasn't to die or to hurt anybody. It was just to make it go away and to make everything stop. That's when I started thinking, “How can I escape this darkness and this feeling of not belonging to even my own family?”
How did you try to deal with those feelings of being out of place?
I started dealing with that by drinking alcohol, using drugs and smoking cigarettes. These were all things that I had seen older people that I looked up to doing. I started adopting their behaviours. So as a child of nine, ten and even going back as far as eight, I was drinking alcohol on a weekly basis. I was drinking, not always to get drunk, but to try and fit in with the adults that I was around.
What did alcohol and drugs do for you?
At the time I thought that they made me feel better. Alcohol numbed me so that I didn't have any empathy towards anybody else. I didn't care if I didn't fit in or I didn't belong or I didn't have friends. Alcohol and drugs, they made me violent. They made me adopt this personality that pushed everyone away and made it very hard to be around me. And the older I got, the more I began to embrace that solitude, that loneliness, and I lost myself in my addictions and became quite content to sit at home alone and drink.
At what point did you realize that the way you were living wasn't sustainable?
I guess what changed my whole world was recognizing that someone else cared about me. I recognized that what I was doing was impacting someone else. And that was the first time, since being a young child, that I actually felt that somebody cared. I was drinking myself to death. I was drinking over 40 beers a day and I had developed esophageal hemorrhaging, which led to a bunch of other things and landed me in the hospital. And in that moment, I started looking around the hospital room and I saw that I had this partner and these stepchildren that were affected by what I was doing. I could see that they cared about me and that they were hurting. And I didn't know what to do with that feeling, but I knew that it was something special and I had to start trying to figure something else out for myself.
How did you turn things around?
When I found myself in the hospital and realized that what I had been doing all these years was impacting other people, I didn't know how to go about living healthy. But I checked myself into a detox facility and sobered up. When I was in there, I kept reaching out and I didn't give up. I didn't want to lose these people that I recognized cared about me. This was brand new to me. So, I really put a lot of effort into trying to find some help. It wasn't always easy and I was pushed out of a lot of opportunities, but I did find it, it was there. And I do realize that I'm one of the lucky guys.
If you could go back and talk to your younger self, what would you say to him?
If I could go back to when I was a kid, when this all started really impacting my life, I would tell myself to ask for help, to reach out, and that I don't deserve to feel that vulnerable and that low. And that as a child, my life was worth more than what I was giving myself credit for.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, a trained responder is ready to listen. Call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566,anytime day or night. And to hear stories of real people who’ve reached out for help, visit todayisbetter.ca