Faith Paul has faced the spectre of suicide in her own life as well as with family and friends.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Faith Paul has faced the spectre of suicide in her own life as well as with family and friends.

May16, 2016
THANDIWE KONGUAVI
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Faith Paul was a regular parishioner at St. Charles Parish in north Edmonton until she could no longer fight the feeling that the Church should do more about mental illness.

One year after she joined the parish's social justice committee, the group sponsored its first mental health awareness event at the parish on May 4, called Yes I Can: Path to Mental Wellness.

"So many people that have mental health problems don't have a voice, and I really wanted to give people a voice," said Paul.

The purpose of the event was to provide hope through education and awareness of available resources.

"If you don't know there's anything out there to help you, if you don't know there's many people out there to help you, you feel isolated and you have no hope," she said.

Paul carries with her a container of salt and a tea light. "When you start laying diagnoses on people, you grind them right down into the earth and they lose their salt. So this is about giving people back their salt so that they can become light to the world."

Paul has lost friends, a niece and two cousins to suicide.

About 10 agencies set up information booths at the event including Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Catholic Social Services (CSS).

Charlotte McKay, CSS vice president of community outreach and disability service, said the event was an opportunity to learn more about other agencies offering services in the community. CSS has more than 130 ministries including crisis, counselling and referral services.

McKay said the people she spoke to at the event did not realize the depth and breadth of services available. "I think it is vital that there are venues like this to help inform people."

Trevor Vezina, of AHS's Addictions and Mental Health Services, said such events are important for broadening the focus on mental illness to leave a message that people can get better.

Hollie Pretty and Anjelic Smith, Queen Elizabeth High School students who volunteered at the event, have seen many people affected by mental health issues at school. One student who was being bullied committed suicide in Grade 10.

"Definitely if friends or family could see how they can help themselves or help each other, it can change some minds," said Pretty about why they volunteered at the event.

"There's ways to help you cope," added Smith.

As a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitator, Paul, a member of the Oblates' associate group Volunteers of God, not only teaches people about mental wellness but also has a lived experience, having struggled with mental health issues herself.

Treated early in life for mental health issues, Paul and her family had to move to Edmonton due to the lack of services for people with mental health problems in northern Alberta. She also struggled with suicide.

SAVED FROM SUICIDE

"Twenty-seven years ago I tried to take my life and, thanks to God, I'm still here," she said.

Today, Paul and her husband Doug, a psychiatric nurse, have been married 41 years. They have three sons and a daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Pat Roth, chair of the St. Charles social justice committee, was encouraged by the positive information available.

"Everybody knows someone that has these issues," said Roth, adding the committee would hold the event again.

Despite the turnout of only about a dozen people, Paul was encouraged by one woman, who saw the poster for the event when she was having it printed.

"Where is this? I have to send my daughter and my grandson," she said, explaining that her 17-year-old grandson was suicidal.

Paul gave her information about resources for help. "I also gave her my card because that boy cannot be lost. So if we help just that boy, we're a success."

For help, the Wellness Network can be found at wellnessnetworkedmonton.com/ and has a 24-hour distress line: 780-482-HELP (4357).