A few weekends ago, the streets of Stockholm were filled with people walking around the town to raise awareness of mental health issues. The event was hosted at the Macdonald school, and included entertainment and a lunch. As a result of the day’s activities, more than $11,000 was raised for mental health causes and also the nature walk at the school.
Behind the event was Team Hegy, and behind the team is the story of Scot. At the event, Brandice Hegedus Marcynuk shared a very moving tribute to her late brother, highlighting the terrible devastation that mental heath issues can have on families. The entire transcript is reproduced below with her permission, and below that are more than 100 pictures of the event.
“I want to start off by thanking each and every one of you for being here today. This tells me that you see the importance of talking about mental illness and you want to see the change …..for yourselves and for your children. I want you to realize that by you being here today, you are being a part of a hard conversation that needs to happen in order for THAT change to take place. So thank you for being our heros.
On November 7th, 2009, my brother Scot lost his life to suicide. He was 33 yrs old and left behind 3 young children. The last time I stood before a crowd like this and talked about my brother was at his funeral. At that point in time, it was impossible to see where we would be 6 yrs later. I could not see past my grief or sadness. I could not see past my broken heart. On that day in November, I couldn’t even see past the next breath I took. I was numb.
I knew Scot had been struggling and earlier that year we had had a conversation over the phone…..a fight actually. I was upset about how things in his life we going because it was affecting his kids. I wanted him to do better. He said some hurtful things to me, and when we hung up, I decided maybe it wasn’t any of my business. What do you do when someone you love so much is struggling this bad? I didn’t live near him, but even if I had, would I have convinced myself that he was an adult and it was not up to me to try “fix” him?
I think Scot had struggled with depression most of his life and I believe he started to self medicate with drugs and alcohol to help himself cope. Eventually, we were not dealing with Scot but with the ugliness of his addictions. In the years that followed his death, my family, “the survivors of suicide” as we have often been referred to, were at war in our own heads about the roles we played in his life and in his death. I can tell you from experience that the “coulda-woulda-shoulda” game you play with yourself will take you down. Its toxic. You will forever be victim to your thoughts if you think you were responsible for that outcome. My brother made all of these decisions on his own. He CHOSE to not ask for help. And maybe for reasons we will never know.
The stigma attached to mental illness is still out there. I do believe it is slowly fading but it is still hindering our progress as a society. With that stigma still in place, people are afraid of the judgement and of feeling weak. We live in a world where deadly diseases exist and take lives every single day. You would never think to pass judgement on someone who had cancer. And you certainly would not think they were weak. But sadly mental illnesses are not treated this way. Depression IS managable and suicide IS preventable.
In our world today, we see doctors for colds, massage therapists for sore muscles or even relaxation. We get blood work done at our yearly physicals to make sure we are healthy. we eat our vegetables and wear sunscreen……so why are we not seeing a therapist once a month just to check in and make sure our minds are good?? There are so many things we can do to help keep our minds healthy and I believe we need to practice these things and teach them to our children.
When the school approached my family, they presented a plan that I thought was only in my head. I had dreamed of a school offering children a safe environment to learn but also to be able to teach them more about who they really are and how they can help themselves when times are tough. There was no hesitation in deciding that this was where we wanted to be. Right here in Stockholm where Scot grew up, He rode his bike on these streets, played baseball and hockey in town and attended this school until grade 10. He was just a regular kid in town like every kid here today.
But I think we can all agree that being a kid in this generation is harder than it has ever been. The stresses for our children are likely not going away anytime soon. They are living as children in an adult world. We may not be able to go back in time to when things were simplier, but there IS something we can do. We can start talking. And that is why we are all here today. My brother fought his demons silently and alone. And that breaks my heart. He probably contemplated life many times before he made that final decision. My family lived through a complete nightmare and it almost destroyed each of us as well.
But when I remember who Scot REALLY was…..the person inside of him before his mental illness began to win…… I remember a brother who held my hand when I was afraid….. I remember a guy who loved life. He really did. He was a guy who was funny, and kind and egotistical all at once. He stood up for me when I couldn’t do it for myself. He fought my battles if I needed him to. He was my HERO. And now it is my turn to stand up for him. I will not let his death define his life.
Today, we all come together to give a voice to those who can not do it for themselves. We come together to do whatever it takes to prevent another child from suffering silently. We come together to honour those who have lost their battles to depression. And to those who are struggling today. We are here to talk about the ugly truths of mental illness and to break free from the stigmas attached. We are here to be our own hereos in our lives and in our childrens’.
From the bottom of our hearts, we can not say thank you enough to Reg and the community at Macdonald school. I honestly don’t even know where to begin in listing off anyone who has helped us out. The emails and text messages came flooding in when we announced we were doing this. So please just know that while I wont list off the dozens and dozens of people who have given us their time and efforts in helping us make this day a success…..we do know who you are. We are forever grateful for your generosity. We knew years ago that we wanted to create an event that was in honour of Scot but educational and empowering for the entire community. 6.5 years ago, we all changed. And for a long time we lost hope in a lot of things. Our journey has been hard and unpredictable. We still have far to go to share our story and create necessary change but i know that as we stand here today, we are no longer broken…. Thank you everyone !!!”