Life is Worth Living
With Bell Talk Day and so many people sharing their stories, I wanted to share Callie, Jaclyn, Shalyn & Brianne's story. I recently reached out to Callie to talk to her about all the amazing things her & her sister's are doing to raise awareness for mental health.
Here is their story:
We have always found it interesting how a single day can shape a life. Whether it’s a major world event, a wedding, a child’s birthday, or in more unhappy circumstances, the day someone leaves this world. Our lives have been shaped by all different world events and personal events, but there is one that will always stand out for us, the day we had to say good-bye to our older sister, Brianne. On the morning of August 31st, 2004, we lost our older sister to suicide.
The heartache that we have had to endure since Brianne’s passing has been indescribable, but we cannot even begin to compare our sadness and grief to what our older sister must have experienced to make the decision to take her own life.
Ultimately, life is about choices and at the young of 19 years old, Brianne chose suicide. Life is a series of events, which is a direct result of our choices. Every day we make decisions; whether that is a decision that will have no bearing on our lives or a decision that will forever change our lives. Some decisions take seconds to make and others take more time to consider the ramifications they will have on our life. As human beings, we don’t realize the impact we can have on others’ lives and how our decisions can drastically affect the ones we love.
Growing up we always viewed our older sister as full of life. She had an infectious smile that instilled hopefulness in anyone that was around her. How could someone so vibrant and full of life be in so much pain?
Our older sister did not want to die, she just could not cope with the pain any longer. Most who die by suicide believe suicide is their only choice left. Can you fathom being in a mindset where you believe you have no other option but to take your own life — that the pain you are feeling is too much to bear to continue living?
We hope to start conversations about mental illness and suicide and decrease the stigma surrounding these topics through our apparel and presentations. We have been speaking at events since 2006 – sharing our story and spreading awareness. Through sharing Brianne’s story our hopes are to prevent other families from ever having to go through what we did.
Brianne was full of laughter and fun. She had a wonderful smile that brightened everyone's day. Brianne is greatly missed, not only by her loving family, but also by her friends and her entire community. At night Brianne is our shining star, and through the day she is our beautiful angel that watches over us. Brianne loved us dearly and we loved her, maybe even more. For the rest of our lives she will be with us in our hearts and not a day will pass that we won't think about her, miss her, but most of all love her.
Callie and I met and I instantly felt like we had known each other for a long time, I have followed Life is Worth Living on social media and have seen how passionate these sisters are about sharing their story and wanted to know how I might be able to help to raise awareness too.
Here are few questions I asked to see how we can all help support this important cause.
1. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or depression, what are the best resources in Saskatchewan for someone to reach out to ?
Reaching out to professionals in the mental health field should be one of the first steps in seeking help for someone struggling with any type of mental illness. Navigating resources and finding ones that work for you can be time consuming and sometimes frustrating if you are unsure of where to look. Saskatchewan has a great resource online for finding resources specific to your needs:
There is help in the form of psychiatrists, doctors, psychologists, counsellors, and many others that can help set you on a path of recovery. It is important to develop coping mechanisms that work for you. Ensure you also surround yourself with a support system, whether that be friends, coworkers, or family that can support you through your recovery.
2. I think it's wonderful that you and your sisters are speaking and spreading your mission, do you mainly speak at schools or do you have other places you speak that the public could hear you speak?
To date we have spent the majority of our time speaking to high school students. We think it is important to speak to youth as suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 15-24. We are passionate about speaking to this age group as Brianne experienced her struggles from the age of 14 to 19. This period of life can be stressful with all the pressures and expectations present, whether that be peer pressure, the expectation to succeed in school or sports, or stressors within the home life. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), only 1 of 5 youth in Canada who needs mental health services actually receive them. It is so important that youth know they are not alone and they are educated on where to seek help if they are struggling. If youth are taught about the importance of mental health and that it is okay to talk about it from a young age, we believe that the current statistics can be changed.
In addition to speaking at high schools, we enjoy opening up and sharing our story with other age groups as well. We will be speaking on May 5th at the Barett Nelson Memorial Music Festival for Mental Health Awareness in Radisson, SK. We are also looking to organize an event within Saskatoon this spring for all age groups to attend. It is just as important that parents are educated in addition to their children.
We love having the opportunity to share our story, spread awareness, and educate the community on mental health with the hopes of preventing other families from experiencing what our family has in losing Brianne to suicide.
3. Your clothing line is such a great way to support mental health, what other ways do you suggest others to donate or volunteer their time?
In the short period of time that we have offered this apparel, we have learned that each person who has purchased an item has their own story and that they are individuals who have been or are family or friends of individuals who were affected by mental illness or suicide. Everyone can wear their clothing, share their own story, and spread why life is worth living.
To each and every person who takes time out of their busy lives to donate their time - thank you! There are many ways to get involved within the mental health community and make a difference, whether that is volunteering for the CMHA in their many social recreation programs or donating to provide funding for these programs and other resources. You can also take the first step in furthering your education in mental health through various courses available that teach you how to help someone in a mental health crisis or someone who is feeling suicidal.
Another great way to volunteer your time is to work with the Big Brother/Big Sister Program. The reason we feel this way is because when we lost Brianne at the age of 13, we were fortunate enough to have older girls in our community to lean on for support and mentoring. We are still forever grateful for those individuals and our wish is for any adolescent experiencing a tough period in their life to have this type of support.
4. What is the most important message you would like to share with others about Life is Worth Living and your mission?
Life is Worth Living is a non-profit project dedicated towards spreading awareness and decreasing the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide. Life is Worth Living aims to remind people that they do have a choice, that there is help and resources available, and that their life matters and is worth living. We do this for our sister because we miss her every day. More than anything we wish she could still be here with us experiencing life. We can’t bring her back, so we will continue to do whatever we can to prevent other families from sharing our experience and hopefully instill in those struggling that they do have a choice and that life is worth living.
5. Besides your online store, where can others find you next to purchase your clothing?
We are excited to announce that our clothing will not only be available through our online store and pop up shops, but also at Holly Decker’s Studio! When Holly approached us to collaborate on projects aimed at raising awareness for mental health we were very excited and humbled as we know how involved she already is in bettering the community. We love what she is doing with her Teen Beauty Workshops to inspire young girls to feel beautiful with or without makeup and focus on inner beauty and self-love.
Our pop-up shops are always advertised on our social media platforms and website. We love not only getting out in the community to sell our clothing, but also speaking with others who are affected by mental illness and suicide. It is so important to be able to open up with each other and share our stories without judgement.
If you would like to support Life is Worth Living you can purchase clothing on their online store https://www.lifeisworthlivingbck.com
Thank you Callie, Jaclyn & Shayln for sharing your story about your sister Brianne and raising awareness about mental health.