The following was written by Billy Strande, just ten days before he was scheduled to be released from Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre in Oct. 2020. Strande died while still incarcerated.

Editor, 

To the people who are or have a loved one dealing with mental health issues, don’t feel like you are alone, but be careful who you reach out to for help. Seek a person or group who has experience, knowledge, and the proven results you are looking for. It may be comfortable to turn to family or others for help, but a lack of experience in educated health studies can leave you feeling judged, alienated and taken advantage of. Please realize that even in COVID times there is help but it is up to you to do the research, contact and follow through to find the proper health plan that fits your needs. It’s okay to be different. Being unique is what makes us important. Once you find balance you will find peace.

Parents with troubled youth, don’t blame your child for what could be given to them from you (mental health is hereditary). Do not say you have tried everything if you haven’t taken the time to research and understand a holistic approach to a child. Don’t assume jail will fix your child’s actions. Tough love is proven to make this worse during a mental health crisis. A cry for help from prison can take a year of paperwork. A failed suicide attempt is met with punishment and alienated embarrassment. You do the math.

If you or anyone is having a harder time doing what is normal, or if you are craving a drink or drugs, don’t suffer in silence “socially” harming yourself every weekend. Please just take five minutes to research what seems to be hard for you. Only you can make your life better. But be careful who you ask for help.

To anyone I have ever hurt or offended in the past, I am sorry. To anyone feeling alone, embarrassed, and past all hope, I know you better than you think and I care. Please think of me before you throw your life away. I will listen and anyone who feels the system will fix your kids, or that person’s fine because they are laughing at how drunk they were. Realize if we aren’t asking why, speaking out, and educating each other, then we are the problem.

Don’t be afraid of an awkward conversation. Don’t be afraid to be real.

Billy Strande

Merritt, BC

CMHA Mental Health Week runs from May 3-9, 2021.