This post is written by a lifelong friend and UNB student, Emily Wright, in memory of Carter Asbell, and in honour of the enduring strength shown by his family, Gail, Dave, and Mason.
In the past few years, talk about mental health has been on the rise, across Canada and across our own campus. Through events like Bell Lets Talk, companies like Wear Your Label, and campaigns such as UNB’s #MyDefinition, stigma is being reduced and stereotypes are being eliminated. Another note, I personally think is crucial, is people are finally learning that mental illnesses come in many shapes and sizes. For example, bi-polar disorder, eating disorders, and depression, (just to name a few) all look different on everyone – there is no standard.
Take Carter Asbell, a former UNB student and friend of many on campus, for example. Although he was never officially diagnosed with depression, he ended his own life. I think I speak on behalf of all of his friends and family when I say that it was a shock. Words cannot do justice how full of life he was. His smile was infectious, and he made it his personal duty to bring joy to everyone. There is not a single person whose life is not enriched for having known him. This is why it still, to this day, boggles my mind that he died from suicide, because I had no idea the emotional pain he must have felt.
Since losing Carter, I’d like to think I have become more conscientious of both my actions and my words. You never know what someone is going through, and how casually throwing around “kill me now,” or “she’s so OCD” may affect them. This is why I’m overjoyed at how much more attention is being focused on mental illnesses, both in terms of media and research. The more we learn, the better equipped we will be, to both educate and cope. For example, a correlational study published in early 2016 suggests that individuals who received a concussion at some point in their life, had a long-term risk of suicide three times higher than that of the normal population (Fralick, Thiruchelvam, Tien, & Redelmeier, 2016). This is an important realization, that could help explain many circumstances, like Carter for example. He sustained numerous concussions from sport and play, and this could be a contributing factor towards the impulsiveness of his decision. The more we learn, the more questions we can answer, and the more we can understand.
I speak now to my fellow peers at UNB, because over time, suicides rate in our population have been increasing dramatically. As the semester continues, things will get busier, harder, and more stressful, but I beg you all to find time for your mental health, because nothing is more important. While getting the A+, beating your record, or going to that party, may seem like it’s a top priority, just remember that mental health will always be the foundation of your life.
If you’re ever feeling stressed, down, or anxious, I invite you to walk to the quad and take a seat on the metal bench with the number nine on the sides. This bench was placed in honour of Carter, and is open to all. It’s meant to be a place of fortitude and reminiscence. If you just need a quiet moment, or if you have someone of your own to remember, please sit there, knowing that it represents the spirit of someone beloved by many, and knowing that you are not alone. As Wentworth Miller said, “like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist.” We all persist.