When CameronHelps’ founder David Harris was in his deepest hour of despair, he knew he had to make a choice. Harris was speaking to parents April 30 at the invitation of the Peel District School Board. He delivered a powerful message about coming back from depression in a talk called Suicide: Start the Conversation.
He was joined by his good friend, social worker Dan McGann who started the award-winning youth run group therapy program at Credit Valley Hospital. After his son Cameron took his own life, Harris said he needed to get back to being emotionally grounded. “I realized that like a bamboo tree, one of the most resilient trees in the world. I had to bend back. It was about admitting that my life would never to the same again and to embrace that change,” he said.
Harris learned not to be afraid and to openly share his emotions and to be more trusting and patient. “Vulnerability is power. I had to put myself out there and talk about suicide. Talking about it gives you power. Mental illness has to be discussed. If not, suicide will continue to happen,” he said.
With people like his charity’s Board Director Randy Flewelling and Dan McGann, Harris found the support and mentors he needed. From a small group, he started CameronHelps which is dedicated to reducing teen suicide, with a special emphasis on running and exercise.
Harris himself learned from his running that it was helping him to cope with stress and depression, “I don’t think I could have gotten through this if I wasn’t physically fit,” he said. Now he is working as a running coach with Dan McGann’s run therapy group and giving back by helping teens. “My life changed when I started to help others,” he adds.
The Peel District School Board has a tremendous opportunity to make a significant impact, he said. People just have to believe in a goal and set it up and make it happen. Harris offered the assistance of his organization to help Peel with suicide prevention. One way for everyone to show support is to run or walk in Port Credit for the fourth annual Father’s Day event.
Dan McGann told the audience of his own personal story of a troubled childhood that led to addiction and depression issues later in life. “If it was hard for me (as a social worker) to seek help, how hard do you think it is for young people? We shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed – – it’s all about talking to people. As David Harris said, vulnerability is power.”
McGann said he started the running program at Credit Valley Hospital because running had transformed his own life. His clients who run are very committed to the program and feel their spirits lift after each session. “They’re more relaxed and confident; it gives them courage and power,” he says.