Morgan’s Mission continues

MENTAL ILLNESS AWARENESS WEEK – OCT. 4 TO OCT. 9, 2015

By DAWN BOOTH, Connect Weekly

A supplied photo of the last family portait with the late Morgan Dunbar in June 2013. Morgan was a victim of cyber-bullying and depression. She ended her own life in Fort McMurray on June 27, 2014. The family continues to raise awareness for mental health. Missing in the photo is her brother Austin, who still resides in Fort McMurray. SUPPLIED PHOTO.

A supplied photo of the last family portait with the late Morgan Dunbar in June 2013. Morgan was a victim of cyber-bullying and depression. She ended her own life in Fort McMurray on June 27, 2014. The family continues to raise awareness for mental health. Missing in the photo is her brother Austin, who still resides in Fort McMurray. SUPPLIED PHOTO.

From October 4 to October 9, 2015, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) of Wood Buffalo is taking action to get the community involved in celebrating Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the annual national public education campaign to raise awareness and end the stigma associated with mental illness.

In a recent news release, the local CMHA stated they “will be a part of this very important celebration by promoting and educating the public through a variety of events and activities through the week.”

The Dunbars (former residents of Fort McMurray) recognize the importance of this week on a regional, provincial and national level, as they continue their mission in raising awareness for mental health, bullying and suicide through the Morgan’s Mission Memorial Society.

Morgan’s Mission (www.morgansmission.ca) is an awareness initiative, which was started by the Dunbars, after the loss of their family member 13-year-old Morgan. She took her own life on June 27, 2014, which Morgan’s mother, Natasha, says she was a victim of depression stemmed from cyber-bullying.

Natasha reports the society is doing well and shares updates on the actions they have been putting in place to spread the awareness in their new community.

“We have started affiliating ourselves with local artists and bands on projects,” said Natasha, who now resides in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. On moving for-ward, Natasha shares: “In a way, it’s part of learning to live again.”

Morgan’s twin sister, Bailey, is writing for the online magazine: Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC). The magazine launched the “SMC Teen Beat” page on July 21, 2015 for Bailey (aka IzzyB) to write about music, which has included blogs on legends like Michael Jackson and Elvis.

Natasha encourages the public to be aware of suicide prevention and try to recognize the signs of depression and possible causes to suicide attempts by not neglecting them with the uncertainties of common teenage behaviour.

“When dealing with a suicide attempt, you have to get to the underlying causes,” she said. “Parents need to watch for any behavioural changes that are not normal. Don’t chalk it up to teenage hormones or teenage mood swings because that is not always the case. Don’t be scared to talk to them. And, if they are feeling that way, ask them if they have a plan and if they know how they would do it. This will be a clear sign that they need help.”

“When dealing with a suicide attempt, you have to get to the underlying causes,” she said. “Parents need to watch for any behavioural changes that are not normal. Don’t chalk it up to teenage hormones or teenage mood swings because that is not always the case. Don’t be scared to talk to them. And, if they are feeling that way, ask them if they have a plan and if they know how they would do it. This will be a clear sign that they need help.”

Natasha also encourages everyone to inform children and youth about Kids Help Phone and make sure they know the number: 1-800-668-6868, as it is Canada’s only 24/7 counselling and information service for young people.

“Kids Help Phone is amazing and every child and teen should be given that phone number and every parent should make sure it’s saved in their child’s phone,” she said.

Being a suicide survivor, Natasha said she has a different outlook on life and the people around her. She explains how it has made her look at everyone and everything differently, including actions of her own.

“I notice I have little patience for those who don’t appreciate what they have and I am drawn to those who don’t have the support they need,” Natasha Dunbar said.

“I notice I have little patience for those who don’t appreciate what they have and I am drawn to those who don’t have the support they need,” she said. “I have seen people treat others terrible when they need help and I have seen others go out of their way to help those who could never repay them. So, for me, I notice people’s actions and words more.”

Natasha shares her perceptions on how bullying creates a mental illness for both the person bullying and the person being bullied. She believes everyone involved should seek the proper help to overcome their behavioural issues.

“People think bullying is done for many reasons,” she said. “They want power over someone. Maybe they have grown up with being bullied and they see their parents treat others that way… what you need to remember is they need  help too. They can reach out and learn to not want to hurt someone else because they are hurting.”

On reaching out and spreading the awareness of anti-bullying, Natasha says her biggest message to bullies is that “words matter”.

“They need to think before they do or say something and for teens it’s not always easy,” she said. “It’s a behaviour they need to be taught very early on.”

“They need to think before they do or say something and for teens it’s not always easy,” she said. “It’s a behaviour they need to be taught very early on.”

Mayor Melissa Blake has recognized the importance of mental illness awareness in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo by proclaiming the week from October 4th to October 10th, 2015 as Mental Illness Awareness Week.

To learn more about the events taking place in the Wood Buffalo region, please visit the Facebook Page: Canadian Mental Health Association – Wood Buffalo Region, for more details on MIAW.

On October 22, 2015, wear purple in honour of Morgan Dunbar, and her family, for the 2nd annual Purple Day. Resi-dents can raise the awareness on social media by using the hashtags: #Mor-gansMission and #LoveLives. To stay up-to-date with Morgan’s Mission, visit www.morgansmission.ca.

– With notes from Connect Contributor, Carol Christian.

– Connect Weekly –