We recently had the opportunity to connect with Susan to hear her personal experience with the Mental Health Foundation and what motivates her to contribute month after month. Her story is an inspiring reminder of the incredible change we can make when we come together to support those in need.
Can you tell us about yourself and your family?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong, came to Edmonton when I was 16 after finishing the high school equivalent in Hong Kong. I met my late husband William at the University of Alberta and we were married after we graduated.
We had 2 beautiful daughters, Stephanie and Samantha. Stephanie is working in New York while Samantha just graduated from Vancouver Film School specializing in Sound Design/Production.
You and your family have a long history of philanthropy, giving to meaningful causes such as Alberta Cancer Foundation and the Cross Cancer Institute, Special Olympics, Mustard Seed and more. Can you tell us more about what inspired you to donate to the Mental Health Foundation?
Like most people who will know of at least one relative or friend died of cancer, both my parents and father-in-law died of cancer.
As for me, I was diagnosed with depression when my oldest daughter was about 7 years old. Lots of time I would be very upset with her for no reason, and then I would cry and started blaming myself being a terrible mom.
William encouraged me to see our family doctor. Prescribed with depression medicine, I felt the positive effects literally the next day. I am very lucky in that some people need months or years of trials before finding the right prescription.
Fast forward to 2012, William’s mental health drastically declined within weeks in that February, and he took his life on February 27, 2012.
Cancer and mental illness took away lives of my closest family members; I always hope that no one has to go through what I did. I would like to see more mental health programs, information, and services readily available to people of different ethnic backgrounds.
My donation and volunteering are simply the act of joining others with the same belief.
You have been a monthly donor for over a decade (wow!), what keeps you engaged with the Foundation?
More people are in need of charitable services due to the rising cost of living and prolonged impacts from the pandemic. Fewer people are making charitable donations because of the same reasons. I hope my action is setting an example for my daughters and others around me – knowing it is more blessed to give than to receive.
In what ways do you think the Foundation is making a difference in the lives of individuals dealing with mental health and substance use issues?
A few generations ago, no one was willing to talk openly about mental illness and substance use issues. Those experiences put shame to the family, and people didn’t want to be labeled as outcasts.
Over the years, the Foundation has slowly helped de-stigmatize mental illness. More publications can be seen about the topics and distress lines available for those who need someone to talk to. All those are resources steering to the right direction.
As an advocate for mental health, do you have any advice for those who may be hesitant to seek professional help or support for their mental health?
Mental health is just as important as physical health. If someone is sick, the common practice will be to go see a doctor and find the best solution to make that someone feel better again. No difference than mental illness, find someone to talk to first, one will be surprised what positive outcome one might get just by openly talk about it.