When he started working in Alberta’s oil and gas industry as a crane operator, Chris didn’t think that his mood swings were a big deal, and the “tough guy” environment didn’t allow for introspection either. Truth be told, he felt that the general mindset in the industry didn’t encourage communication or concern for the mental health of the workers—it’s a sector that is renowned for being highly demanding.
At age 22, Chris went through a separation that plunged him into a deep sadness. The weight of his pain affected him at work; he could spend days crying in the cab of his crane. He realized he couldn’t keep going this way and went to the hospital. His ability to clearly express his emotions helped him and he quickly progressed through the steps leading to his diagnosis. Christopher was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and was offered the help he needed. The assistance program he then began enabled him to understand certain parts of his past. And while he was making progress, he found that his mental health issues were particularly incompatible with his work environment. So, out of fear of being judged, he didn’t talk about them outside of his immediate circle.
It was a journalist friend who offered him the opportunity to take the big step and share his story publicly by talking about his mental illness and the stigmatization in his industry. With this opportunity, Christ openly talked about his past. The effects were immediate. He felt freed from the heavy burden of his secret and realized that he wasn’t the only one dealing with these issues. He also recognizes that he is part of a growing conversation about mental health in the broader trades sector. However, the dialogue has to continue because there is a lot of work left to do…
That is how Chris’s personal awareness campaign came about, with the hope of changing attitudes. Whether with his coworkers, or among fans of his band Form 10, or through the Edmonton Mental Health Awareness Committee (EMHAC), he strives to be a mental health ambassador. He tirelessly promotes the importance of taking care of both our bodies and minds, “because they simply go together”.