Yes, It's Mental Health Awareness Week!
In lieu of Mental Health Awareness Week, here’s a bit of a personal story I wish to share.
I hated high school… period. (big loud emphasis on the “period” part)!
Mostly I hated it because my parents decided to send me to a high school a further bus ride away and apart from the friends I grew up with. Why? Because I was only ever interested in art as a child and they felt that school was a better choice for me largely because of the art program compared to the one offered at the school my friends would be attending. This meant I knew no one and there were only 3 subjects I did fairly well in: Art, Theatre Arts (ask Eric about my Marionette monologue) and English. English… until I ended up in Mr. Fogg’s class that is.
Mr. Fogg was tough as nails. He never wrote a thing on his chalkboard nor did he suggest when it may be a good time to jot notes as he spoke. He treated us very maturely and it was up to us to decipher what was important and in need of recording in our binders as future potential exam material. I liked his class but was pretty intimidated by him. AND – I thought he was overly tough on me. I was a student who really tried to appease him (if not through a great word choice then with my dazzling essay covers) but I got consistently bad marks and seemed to get called out on most everything. At that time I was struggling with school. Some of my new friends were not the most exemplary characters and I started getting into things I shouldn’t, handing articles in late, showing up late to class, etc. For some reason though, when it came time for him to pick a student he felt worthy of going off on an expense paid trip to the Terry Fox Youth Centre in Ottawa, he picked me. I wasn’t sure why at the time. I wasn’t the kid who got picked for anything really and I’m sure I was dumbfounded by his choice at the time. But soon after that trip, things started changing for me and I’ll be forever grateful for that. I began focusing on school more and started approaching Guidance councilors for serious help in my selection of college courses. I really wanted to change and I did. I’ll never be completely sure what Mr. Fogg’s intention with me was or if he had any solid intention at all but my adult self thinks that maybe, just maybe, he saw “potential” in me. By giving me harder pushes and attention (some wanted, some not), I was able to see that I was worth something. That when push came to shove I could do better and that I could eventually earn an "A-" in his course. Maybe he also knew that I could have gone down a different road if someone didn’t try to divert me.
I’m sure Mr. Fogg was tough on others in future years after I left high school. There were probably many more students who were terrified of him and yet appreciated and respected him wholeheartedly as I did. Other than my old college design portfolio, the only things I ever kept from school were my Fogg essays and the marks he gave me and I still read them from time to time. His remarks were not always nice but when I made improvements, it meant more to me than with any other teacher. I learned to love to write and I would keep writing consistently throughout my life thereafter in journals and diaries and even in writing competitions. Writing to this day is one of my top methods in keeping my mental health in check but sadly this was not the case for Mr. Fogg. I learned many years later, when I was busy starting our business and raising little kids, that Mr. Fogg took his life. News of his suicide tore me up and I wish I could have been there for him as he was for me when I was struggling.
Mental Health is real and it’s important not to overlook it. It’s so true that we cannot possibly know what a person is going through so personally, and in business, be kind and be aware of others. If something seems off with someone you know let them know you’re there. They may be in a temporary funk or may need serious help. They may just need to know that someone out there believes in them. And lastly, during Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond… be kind to yourself! The world is messy and can seem downright nasty at times but we should never give up on ourselves nor should we be afraid to ask for help when we need it as well.