A young father-of-two who lost his livelihood when the pandemic struck; a rodeo athlete who lost a way of coping with his depression when the season's events were cancelled; a daughter whose father lost his battle against mental illness this summer.
Three stories from three different areas in Alberta have helped to shed much-needed light on the depth and breadth of the mental health struggles that exist in our province. Thousands of Albertans are, or have been, in the same boat, and many of them are speaking out.
This month, the Gazette and its sister publications of Great West Newspapers are providing a platform in print and online for those voices to share their stories through Struggling For Hope, a feature series shining a floodlight into the corners of Alberta's mental health crisis, especially where it exists in rural communities and how it intersects with our economic fortunes. Too many of us are indeed struggling for hope, and while this crisis has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become more widely recognized in recent years.
Today's edition contains the second feature in Struggling For Hope, written by our Local Journalism Initiative reporter Jen Henderson. It features the journey of Colin Millang, who lost his farm in March 2005 and then proceeded to lose just about everything else – his part-time job, his marriage. But Millang's struggle began long before those losses started piling up; he eventually realized he had been battling depression for years, which coupled with anxiety and feelings of hopelessness had contributed to a spiral of bad decisions.
Millang's story ends on a hopeful note: he is now a Lutheran pastor living in Hanna, Alta., and uses his story as a means to help other people understand what depression can look like. Others who shared their experiences with the Gazette are still fighting their battles; and some stories have ended in tragedy.
These stories, though not all from St. Albert, are heartbreaking and familiar – they belong to our neighbours, our friends and our family members.
The ways in which a struggling economy affects mental health, and vice-versa, are wide-reaching, which is why we felt this is such an important series to write. The more we discuss these issues, the more we give voice to the silent suffering of Albertans like Colin Millang, the better chance we have as a society of coming to grips with our own mental health needs as well as the needs of those around us.
Over the coming weeks, you'll be able to find many more of these stories on our website at StAlbertTODAY.ca. We'll be running as many as we can in print as well. By doing so, we hope to open up conversations big and small in our community about how mental health affects our lives and the lives of those around us.
Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette’s editorial board.