Local mom shares her story - raises awareness about suicide during second annual walk

Posted Aug 9, 2012 By Marla Shook

EMC News - The life of a 16-year-old teen, ended tragically too early, is still touching those left behind.

Plans for the second annual The Brett Pearson Run for Your Life are coming along well for Sept. 1. "Bringing suicide and substance abuse out of the shadows and into the light" are words shared on promotional posters.

The run/walk fundraiser is in memory of the young man who took his own life in 2006. Mother Nicole has been raising awareness of mental health issues ever since.

"It's Brett's life. If it wasn't for Brett's life, if it wasn't for this beautiful child and what happened to him I wouldn't be doing this," she said as tears sparked in her eyes. "A mother's love for her child is so strong this is my expression of love for my child. His life continues."

He is a hero. This little 16-year-old."

The fundraiser takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on "Suicide Awareness Day" participants have the option of a 2.5 or 5 kilometre trek. Those taking part will meet at the Carleton Place High School that morning. The run/walk is sponsored by the Carleton Place Drug Strategy Committee. Parking can be found at CPHS however, not at the Trans Canada Trail site.

A parade will be led by the Royal Canadian Dragoons Army Cadet Corps, with Brett's brother Dennis leading the way. The parade will go to the Trans Canada Trail, which is where the walk/run will take place then back to CPHS for lunch and entertainment. Entertainment is all local and being organized through CPHS from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. The local Ontario Provincial Police are on board as well to aid with traffic.

There will be a shuttle bus which will be going back and forth from the trail to the school as well.

Speakers that day will include Carleton Place mayor Wendy LeBlanc, Master of Ceremonies will be town councillor Jerry Flynn, Robyn Bresnahan host of CBC Ottawa Morning, Marla Israel, director general for health promotion and chronic diseases at the Public Health Agency of Canada (the agency has the mental illness/suicide portfolio) and Constable David Murphy, Community Service Officer for the Smiths Falls Police Service will be on location.

Display booths from various organizations will be present providing a chance for both professionals to liaise and network with representatives from these agencies, as well as the public to gather any information they might need.

Registration is being taken care of by Events Online, visit www.cpdrugstrategy.com go to the Events button - from there, there is a drop down menu. Click on "The Brett Pearson Run for Your Life". Registration and event details can be found on that page. Those registering for the 2.5 kilometre run/walk will pay $25 before Aug. 15 and afterward $30. Those looking to take part in the 5 kilometre run/walk before Aug. 15 will pay $25 and afterward $30. Online registration closes at midnight Aug. 30.

This year a team challenge is being issued and folks are encouraged to sign up in teams of two to four people, either as a group or as a family, or even work colleagues. The cost for a team entry is $40 until Aug. 15 or $50 afterward, for both the 2.5 and the 5 km run/walk.

However registration can take place on the morning of the event as well. Those looking to print a pledge sheet can do so from the website. Those unable to attend the walk, but wishing to make a donation may do so by visiting any Scotiabank branch in Carleton Place, Ottawa, Kanata and Stittsville and giving to the Brett Pearson Memorial Run c/o The Town of Carleton Place. Or the other option is to mail a cheque payable to the same fund name to 175 Bridge St., Carleton Place, K7C 2V8.

Marla Shook, Almonte
Carleton Place EMC
Carleton Place EMC File
Carleton Place EMC File

Race kits will be available to those registered the morning of the event, complete with a race chip and more. The first 300 registrants will receive t-shirts. Volunteers are also being sought to help out at the registration site and at the trail.

"All the money (raised) is turned back into our community for educational purposes, presentations in schools, public forums, workshops," she said. "It all comes back here and doesn't go anywhere else (the money is) for our own youth and our parents."

She noted it is hoped in the future to have some form of community workshop or sessions on substance abuse and mental illnesses for parents.

The walk not only provides an outlet to raise awareness about suicide and drug abuse, it also provides an outlet for people who may not have talked about personal tragedies they have experienced, or those who have lost loved ones, a chance to speak with others who may have or be experiencing the same thing.

"Sometimes it may be the first time they are expressing how they feel among people who can understand their feelings," she said.

She has taken her story to classrooms throughout the area, speaking to children about what happened to her son, and taking the stigma away from mental illness and substance abuse. Through presentations in Smiths Falls as well as Lanark County, there are at least two children she knows of who were saved as a result of those presentations. Children who might have otherwise committed suicide.

"I didn't want Brett to die in vain, but to continue through me. He's not here, but I will do this for him," Nicole said as she placed her hand on her heart.

When Nicole first started sharing her story, she would seek out interested schools, now she is receiving requests and is "trying to keep up with demands."

Ensuring she stays current and on top of trends such as bullying, drugs and more, the presentations are relevant conversations for the children and youth.

Her presentations start out by talking about Brett's life and how things unraveled for him through depression, substance abuse, and alcohol, then she speaks to bullying. She talks about signs and symptoms and how to reach out, both as a friend to someone in need and for someone who needs help - the different ways in which to find it.

"It is better to get help and reach out then wake up one morning and your friend not be there," she pointed out.

At the beginning of her workshops she speaks about talents and aptitudes, noting everyone has at least one. She asks students to share what some of their interests might be, for example, photography. At the end of the presentation she returns to speak about their talents and notes when things aren't going well or if they are having dark thoughts to focus on the positives, find solace in those interests.

"There is a stigma. I didn't want kids to feel ashamed. I talk to them about reaching out to people and then to reach out to each other."

She likes to sprinkle sayings throughout her talks and one she loves and hopes most children will remember is "most problems are temporary and solvable." She said life changes constantly and most problems and crises are not permanent in life.

"Don't make a decision on that crisis," she said.

The presentation then ends with a song "Streamline" a theme song for a popular soda brand that Brett had on his Mp3 player the day he died. A song he listened to that day on his bicycle ride. Nicole tears up as she still pictures him riding on his bike to the song which is rather upbeat. One school in Smiths Falls, she relates, has turned this song into the theme for their gym classes.

"I love the kids. I love working with the kids," she explained.

Normally an officer from the local police service as well as a counselor from Open Doors for Lanark Children and Youth are on site when she undertakes a presentation. Children and youth are also provided with evaluation sheets which are then gone over afterward and children that might appear to need help are sought out. Informational materials are also provided.

Children often come up to Nicole after she speaks, perhaps to open up, to ask about her presentation - all memorable moments for the mother. She remembers one instance where two girls came up to her and shared that they were worried about a friend of theirs. She asked if they would be comfortable speaking with one of the counselors on site. After talking with the counselor they were able to get the help for that friend that they needed.

"For me - I am a very positive person and I didn't want to be in a corner and place blame," she said after her son's death. "I wanted to do something positive with what happened to help others."

She explains she herself had to reach out "to get the help so I could become a better person in society."

In terms of making presentations in schools, she explained, research has shown if a person is going to have a mental illness, it usually manifests itself during their youth or teen years.

"Kids don't seem to be able to deal with problems on a daily basis," she commented. Often children come from varying family situations, or perhaps are in single family homes and there is a prevalence of texting and cell phone communication.

"With texting you can't read the body language," leaving children unable to cope when something very serious happens.

"Put the phone down, try to talk your problem out," she charged. "You can't see tears on an iPad."

Nicole has a teenage son, Dennis, 17, as well as a full time job. And of course she spends much of her time raising awareness of suicide and the many issues surrounding that topic.

"I am very thankful to Carleton Place and the drug strategy committee for their help," she also is grateful to town councillors as well as the local mayor for all of their support. Nicole sits on the Carleton Place Drug Strategy Committee. Its inception was in 2009 and its board features members who are passionate and dedicated to "reducing the risks associated with drug and substance abuse and misuse," their website reads.

For more information please visit the website listed above.



Story leaves an impression

Posted Aug 16, 2012 By Marla Shook

I had the opportunity to meet a woman recently who certainly left an impression on my heart.

Nicole Pearson of Carleton Place, is the mother of Brett, a special young man who liked to give back to his community. A young man who took his own life in 2006 at the age of 16.

While his life on Earth may be over, his mother has certainly kept his spirit alive by spreading a message of awareness, by saving lives of other troubled youth.

She is currently planning the second annual Brett Pearson Run for Your Life, coming up Sept. 1. Raising awareness of suicide, substance abuse and mental illness, funds raised go right back into this community.

The proceeds allow for educational information to be shared at various presentations and workshops to both children, youth and for parents in the future. Right in this community.

Pearson has taken her son's story and opened her heart at various schools throughout the area, even speaking to Ottawa Police about what has transpired.

As a result of her presentations, several youth who were having problems coping came out of the shadows of stigma and got the help they needed.

Who knows if these children had not had anyone to talk to, had not had resources to turn to - had kept their emotions bottled inside - would they be here today? Nicole's presentations afford children and teens the opportunity to come forward in whatever way they are comfortable with, whatever way is easiest for them to seek help. Or to seek help for a friend.

Nicole stresses to students if they know of a friend who is struggling - to come forward, to help them. In an interview with the EMC she noted, it is better to seek out help than to wake up one morning and find a friend has gone ahead and taken their life.

Making a decision and a choice that can never be fixed, it can't be taken back.

One of Nicole's messages she hopes children remember from her presentations is that most problems are temporary. Life changes day to day and most problems are not permanent. In moments of crisis and hardship, she noted, those are not the times to be making decisions - such as to take one's life.

No problem is so big that it can't be solved with some help, is another message she gives to young people. And don't be ashamed of asking for that help. It's a step in the right direction.

After the death of her son, Nicole reached out and got the help she needed to carry on and in carrying on she is ensuring that Brett's spirit is carrying on as well.

Her presentations at schools end with students listening to a song - Streamline - the theme song for a popular soft drink. This was the song on Brett's Mp3 player the day he decided to take his own life. It has an uplifting invigorating beat.

As Nicole speaks of it, tears come to her eyes. It is a touching piece of music for a touching presentation.

And it carries on as well - one school in Smiths Falls uses this song as the theme for its gym classes.

Who knows how many lives will have been saved because the spirit of a 16 year-old young man lives on?




Spreading the message of hope

Posted Aug 16, 2012 By EMC News

EMC News - The following was taken from information provided by Nicole Pearson. A brochure entitled, 'A Mother's Message of Hope to the Youth' contains tips with regards to bullying, suicide, how to help a friend, where to get support and more.

The brochure notes suicide is the greatest life risk to young people and is second only to traffic collisions as the leading cause of death among young people.

Some of the signs to watch out for include:

- withdrawing from friends and family

- unable to sleep or sleeping all the time

- not eating well or attending school on a regular basis

- dramatic mood changes

- increased alcohol or drug use

- talking about death, displaying symptoms of self harm

- avoiding other people

- acting recklessly, and more.

On the topic of bullying it notes bullying is a form of aggressive behaviour which can take many forms ranging from violence to excluding a person socially, spreading lies through email, text messaging or on the internet and more. A few pieces of advice are offered to those being bullied, including:

- you are not alone even though you may feel as if you don't have anyone to talk to

- something can be done and this is not your fault

- tell an adult or a friend whom you can trust.

Tips on helping a friend through a crisis include:

- encourage your friend to talk

- be willing to listen and ask questions

- don't make your friend's problem unimportant

- show that you care

- be non-judgmental and don't put them down or tell them they are wrong

- don't keep your friend's desperation a secret and don't leave him or her alone when they are in a crisis

- suggest people you can both turn to

- reach out to someone you can trust

- seek support, take action and don't give up.

Kids Help Phone can be reached by calling 1-800-668-6868, www.crisisline.ca (16 years of age and older).