Raising Mental Health Awareness

Marlene Mirasty lost her 29-year-old son due to brain cancer.

Brad Siroski struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for over 20 years.

Despite the darkness of their journeys, the two are sharing their respective experiences to spark important conversations in our community about mental health while inspiring others to seek support.

Their powerful stories, along with those from 18 other residents, are part of a social media video project produced by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Saskatoon Branch, which donors like you partially funded through your support of Royal University Hospital Foundation’s Community Mental Health Endowment.

Sharing one’s own mental health story is a valuable tool in combating stigma and inspiring change, says Faith Bodnar, CMHA Saskatoon executive director.

“There’s nothing more powerful than hearing from people we know and seeing ourselves in the experiences of others,” says Faith Bodnar, executive director of CMHA Saskatoon. “Thanks to our funding partners like Royal University Hospital Foundation, we are making our community better one person, one story, at a time and opening up conversations about issues and topics that challenge us all, but which are part of our shared human experience.”

The comments from the participants in the video series are deeply personal and speak of resilience and hope.

During her video, Marlene emphatically says, “Grief isn’t something we talk about in society. Who teaches us about and how to deal with the profound sadness that comes with grief? The thing about grief is that it is a lonely, brutal walk. Ask for help.”

Marlene’s son was courageous in his fight. She learned a lot watching and supporting him during his battle with cancer.

“One of the things that my son did in his 18 months of living after this horrendous diagnosis, was he really did live life. We travelled together. He got married to the love of his life while he had terminal brain cancer. It was important for him to experience joy amid this darkness.”

Marlene added that she too experienced joy in this sadness.

“I think it is important to take those moments of happiness and joy when we grieve and milk it for all its worth. It is about living one day at a time, moment by moment, the best way we can.”

In his video, Brad discusses the years he suffered in silence and the shame he felt because of his addiction and the hurt he had caused others.

“I felt a lot of shame in what I had done, the people I had hurt, the father I had become. When you don’t even want to look at yourself in the mirror, it is really hard to reach out to other people for support.”

During his final treatment program, he realized he needn’t suffer in silence and that finding his “voice” would significantly help him on his recovery journey.

“Self-advocacy isn’t travelling the journey alone. It’s about letting others help you along the way… The first time I did it and shared my story it was only in front of 30 people, all friends of mine. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulder.”

Brad understands why people may not want to ask for help or share their stories because of all the stigmas related to mental health and addictions. But he encourages people to pick up a phone and call that one person they trust and can talk with.

“Once you take that first step, believe me, the rest will get easier with time.”

The In the Spotlight: The Mental Health Minutes project premiere video can be viewed at https://cmhasaskatoon.ca/mental-health-minutes/ with longer
individual stories posted regularly on CMHA Saskatoon’s various social media channels.

Through generous donor support, Royal University Hospital Foundation’s Community Mental Health Endowment (CMHE) has funded over $765,000 since 2013. CMHE Grants provide funding that help develop new and innovative programming for patients/consumers and their families as well as enhances and/or bridges services provided by the Saskatchewan Health Authority, University of Saskatchewan and Community Based Organizations.

Read more stories about the impact of your donations in our 2022–2023 Annual Gratitude Report.