Vernon News

'Things need to change:' Parents of North Okanagan man lost to suicide speak up

Ryan Collins, 30, was recently lost to suicide.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Canadian Mental Health Association

VERNON - A mother and father who lost their son to suicide are sharing his story in hopes of breaking down the stigma around mental health.

Ryan Collins, 30, struggled with anxiety and depression throughout much of his life and was recently lost to suicide, according to a release from the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Collins’ parents, Ricky and Theresa Evanoff, say their son’s anxiety was so bad it held him back from living his life.

“He would focus on the ‘what if’s’ and the extreme worry would paralyze him from doing things. He wasn’t able to sleep well because his mind would never shut off from the worry. He would constantly worry about things he had no control over,” the Evanoffs say in the release. “We would be there to listen and comfort him but his anxiety only continued to get worse."

"He did not want to open up about what he was going through, he did not know how to explain it so he kept a lot inside. The stigma surrounding mental illness prevented Ryan from talking openly about what he was going through and getting the help he needed.”

Anxiety is the most common type of mental disorder affecting 12 per cent of B.C.’s population, or one in eight people, in any given year, according to Canadian Mental Health.

“Ryan was an extremely generous and caring, he was always there for you when you needed him. He believed in ‘paying it forward’ this is why we want to share Ryan’s story because things need to change,” the Evanoffs say. “There needs to be more services for mental health in our community. Anxiety and depression are diseases, the same as addictions and cancer are recognized as diseases, anxiety is just as important and just as dangerous.”

Collins worked at Hytec-Kohler in Armstrong, where his co-workers came together recently to raise funds to improve mental health services in his memory.  A fundraiser brought in over $2,000 for mental health.

“We wanted to come together to remember Ryan and support his family during this difficult time and to bring awareness to the fact we need for more mental health services in our community,” Deborah Fox, Human Resources Manager at Hytec-Kohler says in the release.

About 4,000 Canadians die by suicide every year, according to Canadian Mental Health. The most at-risk group for suicide is men in their 40s and 50s.

“We hope by sharing Ryan’s story we can continue to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness that prevented him from getting help. If we don’t talk about mental illness and suicide nothing will change and things urgently need to change so that more families in our community are not faced with a similar devastating loss,” the Evanoffs say

Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Canadian Mental Health is hosting an evening of hope, health and healing at Polson Park from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. where participants will come together as a community to acknowledge those we have lost and for those we carry hope forward. Free meditation will be offered from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
If you are considering suicide or are concerned about someone who may be call the 24 hour crisis line: 1-888-353-2273 or 1-800-SUICIDE.
To learn more about the Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon Branch or to make a donation to improve mental health in our community, visit the website or call 250-542-3114.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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