‘Dying from a mental illness is just the same as dying from any other disease’ says Paulie O’Byrne, a young man from Canada.
Paulie suffered sexual abuse at the age of 19. It took a long time for him to get past his shame and tell someone about it. Many people didn’t believe him including his parents. He suffered with anxiety, depression and PTSD and took to drugs and alcohol in a big way to be able to cope with the pain. He felt suicidal on many occasions.
His recovery could only begin when somebody believed what he had to say. That’s his message – when someone tells you they have a mental illness or that they are suicidal or that they have been abused, all they ask for is to be believed.
‘As much as I love my support and friends and family, for me I would not call them. The reason I say this is because in my mind it would cause more hurt and confusion if I told someone close that I have a plan to end my life. I thank god every day for crisis lines- the humans that work for them are angels among us. I can boldly state right now I’ve called the crisis line over 50 times since 2010, and I’m still here. I’ve thought about ending my life on my birthday before, for the sole reason people will only have to feel sad 1 day a year, not my birthday and death day.’
He worked incredibly hard to get out of the dark place where he was. His counsellors didn’t give up on him and he didn’t give up on himself. He started a movement called ‘1 in 5’, the motto of which is ‘strength from pain’. He speaks and blogs about the high incidence of sexual abuse in men (1 in 5) in Canada and encourages other victims to come forward and speak about their experiences by doing so himself.
He lives in gratitude, one day at a time.
‘I am grateful for the fact that I can breathe.’