Jaime Mitchell knows first-hand the devastating impact of suicide. Two years ago, she and her husband, Scott, lost their son Zachary, who was only 17.
Since then, Jaime has been tirelessly working to raise awareness about mental health and to provide support to those in need, despite her own struggles with maintaining her mental wellness.
Her determination to create change and build a healthy society has been unwavering.
“It’s hard to find a clear path. It’s a different world than I grew up in, and I can’t imagine how overwhelming it is for the next generation to understand the world,” she says.
It started with posts to the Formal Friday group on Facebook — a space where people feel supported and share positivity with one another.
Inspired by the Formal Friday posts, Jeny and Phil Akitt, owners of Twin Butte Country General Store, connected with the Mitchells last spring and planned the first Mental Health Fundraiser.
They offered up their venue, and tickets to the affair sold out in a day. About $5,600 was raised for the Canadian Mental Health Association at the hugely successful event.
“Losing a child is one of the hardest things anyone can go through, and we wanted them to know we as a community love and support them,” Jeny says.
This year’s event will be held at Twin Butte Community Hall, and will feature live music by Badlands, a live auction, cocktails and a taco supper provided by Twin Butte Country General Store.
“We felt if we had a larger space, we’d be able to increase our efforts and our fundraising capabilities,” says Jaime.
Local businesses and individuals have provided amazing support, and information from the Canadian Mental Health Association will be available at the event, along with information about assets and avenues available to local residents to take care of their mental health.
“It’s wonderful that so many are contributing again this year,” says Jamie.
Jaime is working up the courage to be the main spokesperson. She shares her journey truthfully and her passion for being a voice for those who are struggling is inspiring.
“Who I was before I lost Zach and who I am now is different,” she says.
Like so many, she was a typical supermom with a seemingly unlimited capacity to juggle and deal with whatever came her way.
“Now I still have the drive, but my mind and heart don’t work as well together. I feel like I’m lacking in personal competence and find myself rationalizing that my efforts are the best I can do,” Jaime says.
Despite her own insecurities, she is determined to continue working for change and forcing herself to challenge nagging fears.
“As a mom, I had faith that my own children were strong enough and healthy enough to face the struggles and hardships of the forever-changing world that we live in,” says Jaime.
“I realize now I wasn’t as good a supporter as I thought I was and that sometimes a simple comment, not meant to be harmful or judgmental, can make a difference.”
She firmly believes that mental health for all needs to be taken seriously and is determined to create change and a healthier society.
“Canadians are in crisis mode, and the government needs to re-evaluate its efforts to provide support. I don’t think many of us truly see or understand how much of a crisis it truly is,” Jaime says.
Information from the Canadian Mental Health Association will be available at the event and open discussion will be on the table.
Attendees will also have an opportunity to take action by signing the Act for Mental Health.
This campaign, led by the CMHA, aims to send 7,500 letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau along with the ministers of finance, health, and mental health and addictions. The letters call for mental health care to be truly universal and publicly funded so that every Canadian has access to basic care.
“We want to create change and a healthy society,” says Jaime. “This includes implementing a more organized structure to ensure those in crisis receive all the help available to them.”
Jaime’s choice to have the money raised directed to CMHA stems from her desire to see local efforts create a difference Canada-wide and provide support for everyone.
She feels the organization has the power to fight as a whole for the benefit of all.
“Not everyone will walk the same path, and we shouldn’t have to fight so hard to be understood and accepted,” Jaime says.
Saturday’s event promises to be a night to remember. It’s an opportunity not only to have a great time, but also to make a meaningful contribution to a cause that affects so many.
“This year, the event has doubled in size, and we are very grateful to the Twin Butte Community Society for helping us make it bigger and better!” says Jeny.
Tickets are $50 and are available at Twin Butte Country General Store or by calling 403-627-4035.
Rides home will be available from Twin Butte (but not to the hall), and all are invited to come and enjoy the evening, support an important cause, and take some knowledge home with them.
The journey for Zach’s family has been difficult since his death two years ago.
Together, and in his memory, the community can make a difference in the fight for mental health awareness and support.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, the Alberta Mental Health Help Line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 1-877-303-2642.
Support for caretakers is also available at this number.
211 Alberta is another option. You can speak directly to someone by dialing 211, texting INFO to 211 or using the live chat at ab.211.ca.
These options are also available all day, every day, and there is always someone at the other end of the line.