Your health – mind, body and spirit
Today is a really important day.

For me, today is so important because it is the day that our whole country focuses on busting the stigma around mental health. That means it is an important day for you too because someone you know is facing challenges right now; it might even be you. Today is the day that help, understanding and acceptance grow.

Our mental health journey
Many of you know that I am married to an extraordinary individual; 4-time Olympian and GoodLife Kids Champion, Silken Laumann. As proud as I am of Silken’s physical and athletic accomplishments, I am even more proud of her personal journey, and how open and vulnerable she is about her mental health challenges. 

For a long time, Silken and I have been talking about how we can both continue to make a real and impactful difference for those affected by mental health. We started by telling our stories. In her book, Unsinkable, Silken opens up about the years of challenges she and her family faced. I have been open about my challenges, and the mental resilience that I was able to find, when I was struck with rapid onset rheumatoid arthritis in my early 30s. I woke up one morning and wasn’t able to move; I couldn’t get out of bed. I went to sleep an elite athlete and woke up feeling like I had aged 60 years overnight.  Psychologically, this was a very challenging time for me and a very humbling experience.  Once fiercely independent, I now had to wait for people to do simple things like open doors for me because I couldn’t turn the doorknobs myself. I attribute my ability to cope to my continuing investment in my physical health.  

The benefits of physical health for your mental health
There is an incredible and undeniable link between mental and physical health. Being physically well and fit doesn’t take away your mental health challenges, but gives you a strong foundation to allow you to care for your mental wellness. My commitment to my physical health has given me a toolbox of skills and the fuel to help me face new and often difficult situations that sometimes created a lot of stress, discomfort or unhappiness for me.

Creating communities of understanding
Soon after my battle with arthritis, I was given one of the greatest gifts of my life, my first daughter, Kilee.  We soon learned that Kilee was different, she had unique challenges.  She was diagnosed with severe Autism.  For her whole life, we have entered situations that could be really stressful and uncertain for Kilee and myself and also for those around us. She makes noises and sometimes acts out in ways that people might not understand. What I try to do is create a safe space for everyone and be open and candid about Kilee’s behaviours so that everyone is aware and comfortable and knows that it is okay to talk about it and recognize that it might be different.

Much like we’ve built an amazing community, in many places, with the special needs community, we need to be champions for a community of understanding around mental health. That way, those who are facing similar challenges don’t feel so alone. Everyone gets stronger and everyone benefits when we work as a community. We need to combat judgement with understanding and we need to do it together.

Silken is Unsinkable!
I’m 100 percent behind Silken’s new venture that I believe will bring incredible changes to the way we tell stories about mental health, and how we can cope and find resources, support and inspiration from the heroes who have found strategies to cope with their own mental health challenges and to live their best lives. I knew that this was a great fit with everything that we are doing at GoodLife to help people have the best physical and mental wellness possible. From the day we started talking about the idea for Unsinkable, I knew that Silken’s plan to create a platform that tells stories of courage and transformation to connect and empower Canadians to achieve better mental, physical and spiritual health was going to be transformational for so many people. Take a sneak peek here:

I am very proud of Silken for having the courage to take on this great responsibility. Every time she connects with someone to learn about their story, she shares her own. This is not an easy thing, having to open up your heart and share the biggest challenges and hurdles you’ve ever faced on an ongoing basis, but she has chosen to do this because her desire to help others and use her voice and story in this way is much greater than her fear or desire to leave the difficulties of the past behind her. 

Thank you for taking the time to read about our stories today. We want to play our role in nurturing and growing a community of understanding that is so strong that the stigma and judgement of mental health will be eradicated. Talking about it, as Bell Let’s Talk champions, and sharing stories, as Silken is doing, are at the core of what is going to make this change possible.