CARLEE KNIGHT: MY FRIEND AUSTEN

Just over two years ago on August 24, 2014, Kate Dupuis, Hayden Marquette, and myself lost our best friend to suicide. I myself was 18 years old at the time and he was 19, both in the midst of our new, exciting, and scary journeys into the world of post secondary. Austen was unlike anyone I had ever met, he was my person. Austen had a laugh that was unbelievably contagious and a sense of humour that was truly one of a kind. The support, loyalty, and love Austen showed to not only his friends and family but to everyone who crossed his path was something I had always looked up to. Kate, Hayden, and myself were struggling with the guilt, confusion, and sadness we felt towards the situation. It seemed as though everyone was looking towards us for an answer without wanting to bring up mental health. We share the common feeling that mental health is something we shouldn’t feel we have to hide. Depression and suicide are not curse words and deserve to be talked about. 

We realized although that our sorrow and confusion must not be anything compared to the deep depression that Austen felt. The sadness we feel for our loss has turned into sadness about the presence of mental illness. We have a common goal of wanting to increase the discussion about mental health and reach out to those suffering through similar mental health problems, especially in our hometown communities. We asked ourselves how could we influence a positive and accepting approach to the importance mental health care? 

On June 6, 2015 we hosted a volleyball tournament (Austen was known for his skill and passion for volleyball) in his memory in Cold Lake, Alberta. Austen spent many days playing volleyball in Cold Lake on a club team, as well as coaching, mentoring, and supporting younger generations of volleyball players. We felt as though the tournament could provide the people who loved Austen a chance to remember him in a positive way, and we wanted to allow people to be able to grieve in a supportive setting.

The tournament hosted 11 competitive teams of Austen’s teammates, friends, family, and many others expressing their support. We had many generous businesses and families donate food, bbqs, door prizes and money to our event. Through team entry fees, food sales, prize draw sales, 50/50 tickets, and donations we raised $9850.77 All of which we donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association. We hosted the tournament once again this past June and were overwhelmed by the increasing support. We hosted 16 teams and raised $4437 dollars to the Canadian Mental Health Association.  

In discussion with the CMHA and other organizations we are working together to help combat stigma and provide an environment in which individuals struggling feel they can reach out to. We are planning the tournament once again for June 2017 this year with the presence of the CMHA. The CHMA plans to attend the tournament to help bring available resources to light and to continue to help increase awareness and the discussion of mental health.

* YouAreMore is excited to be apart of their volleyball tournament next June. If you'd like to be apart of this amazing event by representing YouAreMore, donating or making a team please contact us at youaremore@hotmail.com!