Jay McDonald is both a speaker and entrepreneur living in Calgary with a mission to help people find comfort in their own skin.
He is removing the stigma from mental health and starting the conversation on suicide and suicide prevention. Partnered with Kids Help Phone, Jay’s goal in speaking to schools, businesses, and other organizations, is to lower the suicide rate in teens and adults across Canada.
From agripreneurs to students, and anyone in between, if you’re reading this and have ever felt like you’re not enough or that you’re the only one, know that you’re not alone.
Mental Health and Suicide
Nobody wants to die, they just want the pain to stop.
We live in a world where we are surrounded by friends, likes, and connection through social media, yet people are feeling more disconnected now than they did before. While social media isn’t the direct cause of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues among young people, I do believe there is a correlation to the fact.
I struggled with mental health my whole life. I was 215 pounds in elementary school, and was being medically treated for anger management. I had OCD, anxiety and depression. I was in a manic cycle of hopelessness, feeling like nobody understood what I was going through, and like I was all alone. I know now, however, that I was never alone.
Currently 1 out of 5 teens between the ages of 12 and 17 have thought and planned to commit suicide; and 2 out of 5 of teens who have a plan, also have the means to do so. At a time when people feel alone, like there is nobody else who understands, it’s difficult to see the hope and purpose that is portrayed through social media.
To be depressed is to have no hope and while the statistics themselves are depressing, there is hope to turn things around.
How Do You Honour People?
It’s amazing what happens when you are more interested in hearing other people’s stories than you are trying to be interesting to them. By giving someone an ear, even if it’s for 5 minutes, you can discover common ground together. I honour people by listening to their stories and by encouraging them in it.
I think it takes an incredible amount of vulnerability and courage for someone to share their story with you and to expose the truth. So, the biggest honour for me is when someone tells me what’s actually going on in their life.
When you find common ground with people, it becomes possible to stand together with those whose stories are like yours. I know that quite often I won’t say the right thing in given situations, but standing with others and saying, “me too” helps to build the connection we are so missing in our world.
Do You Have Any Testimonies or Cool Stories?
My overall life’s purpose is to help people find comfort in their own skin and it amazes me to see someone come who has come from rock bottom to living a life full of purpose and fulfillment.
There have been many stories of people who were going to commit suicide on the same day I spoke at their school, who shared with me afterwards about how the direction of their life was changed. If we can shift the destination people set for themselves from a place of hopelessness to a place of hope, lives will forever be changed.
For example, any type of disability or diagnoses that challenges our day to day life is something people tend to own, and it’s because that’s how we associate ourselves. Someone who is diagnosed with depression might say, “I am depressed because I have a chemical imbalance in my brain,” and it comes from a place of hopelessness.
Our diagnosis then becomes our destination, based on language that we use to describe ourselves. Yet, we have the ability to build someone up or beat someone down with the words we speak. It’s incredible the impact one sentence can have in literally changing the direction of someone’s life.
For example: “I have depression because I have a chemical imbalance in my brain, but depression is not who I am and I will not let it dictate how I live,” comes from a place of hope.
So, is it possible to get to a place of having hope? Is it possible to wake up every day, knowing that if you have nothing left, it’s not going to be the end of the world because you’ve become rooted in your purpose?
The answer is yes. When you can change your focus, you can change your life and how we can do that is through gratitude.
Gratitude is the key that helps us shift our focus. Gratitude helps us to find thankfulness and appreciation where there wasn’t any before and it also helps us to create resilience.
Gratitude is a choice we must make every single day. It’s sounds easy enough to do but it’s easy not to do also.
Are There Any Projects You’re Currently Working On?
Yes. Right now, my co-founder Luke Shaw and I, are shifting Andra Athletics out of the gym and into street apparel. Andra Athletics is a premium quality, active lifestyle, clothing brand where we meet functional clothing needs for the gym and use profits to help give back to community initiatives.
The idea behind Andra is to encourage, empower and equip, helping people discover their strengths and passion in the gym. Since we are adding our streetstyle to the mix, we can help encourage, empower, and equip people to discover their passion in other areas of life like music, dance, art, coffee etc.
Again, my overall mission is to help others find comfort in their own skin and moving ahead with the lifestyle movement is a part of that.
Are There Any Needs You’re Looking To Have Filled?
The biggest need is to be heard. Mental health and suicide is a conversation that’s beginning to happen but isn’t anywhere near its peak yet. We need to make suicide awareness and prevention a higher priority and you can help by sharing your stories or this article.
If your eyes land on this article, you need to know everything happens for a reason. I want to encourage you that you are loved and you’re worth is far greater than you know!
If you or anyone you know would like someone to come to your school, business, or other organization to speak about mental health and suicide awareness, you can get in touch with me at the links below.