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Knock Stigma Out of the Park: Baseball for Dad

Guest Author: Louri

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

May 5th, 2019 was the day that would forever change our lives.

On June 24th, 1990, my first born blessed us with his arrival. A new chapter in our life began and what a beautiful story. We watched him grow into a kind, hardworking, loving man. He had a heart of gold, hugs that made everything better and a smile that would brighten anyone’s day. He graduated high school, went on to take courses to get the township job he wanted. He married his best friend; they bought their first home together and had two beautiful children.

In the spring of 2018, our son thought he was having a heart attack. We soon found out he was dealing with anxiety. A few short months later, in July 2018 they lost their family home to a fire. Things quickly spiraled downhill. He was diagnosed later with having PTSD, which later led to a diagnosis of bi-polar.

He believed he was a burden.

I watched my son fight the battle of his life. I had no idea how mental illness effects people. Due to the stigma around mental illness, Mark did not want to get help.

“I don’t want people to think I’m crazy,” “They will lock me up” he would say.

It was months before we were able to get him to the hospital and then it was a wait to see a psychiatrist. Mark tried a few different medications once he started getting help. Through this time, we could see how the illness was making him believe there was no hope, he believed he was a burden, he felt everyone would be better of without him.

Our son lost his battle on May 5, when he died by suicide. Our lives forever changed. That day will forever be etched in my brain.

We decided as a family we wanted to take our pain and create change in his Memory. We quickly realized how Mental Health can happen to anyone. We decided we wanted to create awareness and end the Stigma. We want people to know it is okay not to be okay, you are not alone and taking medications for mental Illness is no different than taking medications for diabetes, cancer, or blood pressure. They save lives, and help you live a fulfilled life. STIGMA IS A DETERRENT TO PEOPLE GETTING HELP, and untreated Mental illness robs people out of their quality of life.

Our lives forever changed.

In August 2019, our family created “Baseball for Dad.” Our son loved baseball, so we decided in his memory we would place ball gloves around the world. Each glove has a card with a photo of Mark and his children, a brief blurb about his story, and instructions on how you can do your part to continue spreading mental health awareness and “Knock Stigma Out of the Park.”

August 10, 2019 his children placed the first glove, and we continue to place one each month since then. Our goal was to help just one person or one family who has lost a loved one to suicide. We do not want to see others go through what Mark and our family has been through, and if they have, we want them to know they’re not alone.

It was amazing to see how quickly people all over the world wanted to get involved. As of today, we would have placed 11 gloves, but instead there has been 141 gloves and counting, placed in 13 countries.

When we are not placing ball gloves and creating awareness, we are promoting, teaching, and modeling kindness.
We started the Kindness Moose program June 24, 2020 on our son’s birthday.

We want them to know they’re not alone.

We are excited to be presenting a Kindness Moose monthly at four schools in the fall. We believe being kind means you think about the needs and concerns of others. Being kind makes you and others feel good. Being kind shifts the focus away from negative thoughts to positive ones. It is our hope that increasing kindness and compassion will decrease bullying.

We also started placing Mark’s Buddy Benches with the help of RJK Welding & Watt’s & Sutherland Autobody. We have installed one Bench and four more are being made. Mark’s Buddy Benches are designed and built to, promote kindness, friendships, and inclusivity. Sparking conversations to raise awareness in memory of our son.

We were honoured to share his story and partner up with the NAEC ManUp group. They are an amazing group of student leaders, lead by Josh Goodfellow. They look at such topics as Men’s Mental Health and ending the stigma around men being able to express their feelings and reach out for help. They are looking at how the women in our communities are being treated and learn positive masculinity principals along with bystander intervention practices.

With my son’s greatest qualities guiding our lives, we have found a purpose. We will advocate and work hard to end the stigma, advocate, promote kindness and teach awareness, so people with similar stories can end differently.

Mark’s full story can be read on our website at – https://baseballfordad.com/

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