PEI

Year after son's death, parents urge 'loud and clear' talk about mental health

Cows Creamery will mark the birthday of a young man from Charlottetown who lost his life to suicide last year with an event to encourage people to talk about mental health.

'He was struggling for a long time but didn't show it to anybody or tell anybody about it'

Joe and Heather Driscoll are encouraging parents to talk to their children about mental health. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

Cows Creamery will mark the birthday of a young man from Charlottetown who lost his life to suicide last year with an event to encourage people to talk about mental health.

Moo Let's Talk Day will be held on March 1, which would have been Jason Driscoll's 22nd birthday.

"He was … the last person on Earth that you ever think would have something going on in his head and not be talking about it," said Joe Driscoll, Jason's father.

"Everyone that knew him was so completely blown away by what happened, and still are. No one can figure it out."

It was his silence that convinced the Driscolls it was important to find a way to open up conversations about mental health.

Cows has designed a T-shirt for the Moo Let's Talk day. (COWS)

"We know this didn't just happen. He was struggling for a long time but didn't show it to anybody or tell anybody about it," said his mother, Heather Driscoll.

"We need to speak loud and clear about this."

'Weren't going to hide anything'

Jason's cousin wanted to do something to mark his 22nd birthday, and approached Cows to see if they would be interested in sponsoring an event. The company was immediately on board, the Driscolls said. They created a T-shirt for the day and will donate the proceeds from ice cream sales on March 1 to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

They will also distribute cards with the phone number for a mental health help line.

"Right from the start we agreed we weren't going to hide anything about this," said Joe Driscoll.

Jason Driscoll gave no clear indication he was suffering, say his parents. (Submitted by Joe and Heather Driscoll)

"It's such an important thing. It robs so many people of their family and their loved ones. We felt that there was no reason to hide the fact that this had happened. In our mind there was nothing bad could come of admitting to the fact that Jason had done this and the reason he did was because he wasn't able to talk."

Since Jason's death, others have reached out to speak with them, and they have been encouraging those conversations. With this event they hope to expand those conversations further out into the community.

'Ask what's going on'

"We really urge parents to have that talk with their kids and to really ask what's going on, and to ask those questions that as parents we don't always want to know what the answers are," said Heather Driscoll.

Jason loved ice cream, she said, and he worked at Cows for two summers, so it seemed appropriate to partner with Cows for this event.

"Jason would love nothing better than to know that everybody was getting a brain freeze on his birthday," she said.

With files from Island Morning

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