Sunday, 16 March 2014

Winterlude/Rick Mercer/Mental Health

So, I'm still on my winter theme here. After this week's snow in Ontario, I think I can get away with it. 

One of Ottawa's winter highlights is Winterlude, a festival held over three weekends in February. I must confess that I didn't see much of it this year. I was too busy going to physio and walking very carefully with my sore knee. I didn't want to chance a re-injury, while skating on the canal or sliding down the ice hills in Jacques Cartier Park. At least that's the excuse I'm going with.

However, I did manage to make it to Confederation Park for one evening event. Along with many others we admired the ice sculptures.

Those sculptures were not the main reason for going downtown on a cold winter night. No, Rick Mercer was the draw for us. There was a free event in the park as part of the Cracking up the Capital Comedy Festival.

Mercer did not actually speak for long that night. But what he said was heartfelt and impressive. He gets my vote for one of Canada's true gems.  His television show is not only funny, but intelligent and enlightening. I can't think of another show that appeals to both my kids and my parents. When many of us used to listen to Peter Gzowski  on radio, we felt connected, all across the country. Likewise with Mercer. In a very entertaining manner he teaches all of us about various aspects of our country.

On this particular night he was talking about the importance of recognizing mental health issues and standing up against bullying when we encounter it. They played a rant from his show, when he spoke about the bullying that lead to the suicide of Ottawa teen  Jamie Hubley.

Mercers' part of the event was followed  by Jamie Hubley's father, city councillor Alan Hubley. He too called for better communication, recognition and support for those with mental health concerns. He has been very vocal in this field since Jamie's death.  

I was lucky to know Jamie for a short time. He was a student at my school and I was his resource/special ed. teacher for part of a year. Like many young teens he didn't want a lot to do with a spec. ed. teacher. What grade seven student wants to be known as a spec. ed. kid? And so our interactions were few. My main memory is a conversation we had about an upcoming figure skating competition he was excited about. He just seemed like a sweet kid. Shortly after that conversation he left our school. I found out much later it was because of a bullying incident. I can't imagine being his parents and living with his loss. It's very generous of his father to use this tragedy as an opportunity to de-stigmatize mental health issues.

And so, what we thought was going to be a light hearted evening turned out to be something a lot more serious. However, hearing that message again was far more important than just having a few laughs.

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