I was raised and home educated in a conservative Christian home right until graduation. After moving away to College and becoming involved in Student Politics, I began to realize and experience the pressures college students face. I became depressed and felt as if I would have a mental or physical breakdown. I got over it, but then things took a turn for the worse when I finally came to terms with my sexuality.
I’m gay. I remember telling my mother those two words. She looked right back at me and said, “No you’re not. God doesn’t make people gay.” I wanted to believe her. I didn’t want her to disown me. And so I agreed with her. But inside I didn’t believe it. I tried to change. I really did.
Finally I came to terms with myself. I accepted myself. But how could I tell my mother. Family has always been extremely important to me and I could not dream of losing it. My family was never perfect (but none are) but we were very close. When I told my mom I was gay I was visiting home before going back to college 11 hours away.
One frustrating thing about my mother is that she used to talk about homosexuality more than most of my gay friends – and not in a nice way. So after I came to terms myself, I could no longer agree with my mother’s view on her favorite subject. I kept changing topics and saying things that implied I didn’t think homosexuality was as wrong as she did and that I had gay friends. This brought her to the correct conclusion. I was gay.
After this I received from her the longest email I have ever received. It took me two weeks to calm myself enough to give her a civil reply. It read in part:
"I want to be a part of your life and I want you to be a part of mine. I am willing to set aside our differences of opinion and belief and find common ground if you are willing to do the same. I love you very much.
The next email I received from her was the day before Mother's Day. I never responded.
She told me I wasn’t homosexual and that I had to repent, get ministry, and overcome it. She said it, was depraved, and perverted. She then told me that I could not be gay and work towards my “God-given destiny” and that she could not be part of my future.
When I received that email from her I was at a Student Executive conference in Edmonton. I got it in the morning and was busy all day and tried not to think about it. But late that night I went for a walk in downtown Edmonton. I came to the grounds of the provincial Legislature. As I climbed those steps I was very emotional. The glory of that building against the night sky made me long for a better place. And not later. NOW!
I walked to the edge and peered over the wide stone railing. The fall, while not far, would be enough to break my neck if I jumped head first. I ran my hand along the ledge, longing for an end to my pain and the tears that would not come. I had been betrayed by the people who were supposed to be there for me. I wanted to kill myself. To end it all.
So why didn’t I? Why am I still here? I don’t know.
I had one fear: that if I landed wrong I would have still been alive and in a much worse situation. So I thought of a friend who meant the world to me. We later started dating and are still together. I thought of my little sister; and my brother whose roommate had killed herself a short time before. Could I really do this to him? I thought of who I would become and what I hope to one day do. I slowly walked down those steps. I walked to a footbridge in front of that grand monument and sat there in the night.
Writing about this a week and a half later, I penned these words:
"I hope to one day climb those steps as a political leader. I can one day point to the very ledge where I almost ended it all and plead for the helpless and the hopeless. Cry to the world to end the hate and the rejection."
Little did I know, that as I would continue as President of the Lethbridge College Students' Association, I would become a Director for a provincial student lobby group, and get the opportunity to start to see this happen. Seven months after I nearly jumped, I walked those same steps for a meeting with a cabinet minister, with mental health as the key item of discussion.
Mental health is perhaps the greatest challenge facing post secondary students today. This issue is ignored by government and not prioritized by educational institutions. Let's blow the lid off this.
The issue of mental health on campuses and among students has become my passion. It is time to blow the lid off this issue and ensure it receives the attention it deserves.
I have talked to students who wanted to kill themselves. I have had to call 911 regarding someone close to me. I saw the police tackle him to the ground and take the belts off from around his neck and cannot ever forget it. I know what it's like to wait in Emergency with someone tied to the bed for protection.
I have had late night conversations with people in tears. I have called people at all hours when I wanted to kill myself.
"There are places they can get help." is an answer I will not tolerate. With not enough resources and long waiting times, our campuses must be equipped to deal with this crisis. And if it does not happen soon, it will be too late. Already counseling services at various institutions over-booked and have ceased to advertise their services.
If you are or know a student who has a story to tell, I want to hear it. I want to bring together stories to engage government and public. . Call me at 403-359-2606. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org
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