CLARENVILLE, NL — Amelia Danial became friends with Victoria Best through work, and through their shared love of music.
As a friend, she also knew of Victoria’s struggle with mental illness.
“She was quite open about the challenges she faced, and we had many conversations about it,” Danial told the Packet Friday.
In the days following Victoria’s death, Danial says she and others felt compelled to do something to remember their friend and to help others who are dealing with mental health issues.
On Tibbs Eve, Dec. 23, members of the community are encouraged to join friends of Victoria at the Elizabeth Swan Park in Clarenville for a vigil to “light up the darkness and break the silence.”
“It is now our turn to pick up the torch she carried for so long and prove to her that her fight was not in vain,” reads the poster for the event circulating on Facebook.
Danial says in this past week many have been pondering the question of whether or not there are sufficient services in the Clarenville area for people who are in need of help during a mental health crisis.
“Clarenville does not have an emergency crisis system,” noted Danial, adding while there are help lines that people can call, a better system might include a local phone number to reach volunteers who could provide face-to-face contact with someone who is having difficulty.
She suggested a better system might also include a designated space within the local hospital so that even if someone in crisis does not meet the protocol for hospital admission, they might still be able to remain safe within a hospital setting during their crisis.
There are things that need to be done, says Danial, changes that need to be made to ensure that those who need help have more options to get that help.
She hopes the vigil will be the start of change.
The Dec. 23 event begins with a walk, starting at 7 p.m., from Tai Hong Restaurant on Tilley’s Road to the Elizabeth Swan Park.
Dan Goodyear of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Newfoundland and Labrador, will be attending, and there will be musical presentations from some of Victoria's music students and friends, as well as the cast of Victoria’s production of Glee 1976/2016.
Danial says the event is to remember others, as well, who have lost their battle with mental health.
A bell will toll for each person who died.
Anyone who has lost a loved one to mental illness is welcomed to have the name of their loved one read at the vigil. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is currently setting up a web page for the event and family members can submit a name, and a donation, through that page.
Inmates at the Women’s Correctional Centre in Clarenville — where Danial works — have also been contributing to the planning for this event. They are making purple and teal friendship bracelets. These will be sold for $5 at the vigil with the money going to the CMHA.
Anyone who wishes to donate any amount of money is also welcomed to do so, said Danial.
All money raised from this event will be donated in Victoria’s name to the CMHA.
“Her last message in her Facebook post last week was that Christmas is a difficult time for some, and she challenged people to reach out and help,” notes Danial.
“What better way to honour her than to reach out and help others,” she said, adding the hope is this will be an annual event allowing the community to continue to do what Victoria did, to talk about mental illness and be an advocate for those suffering.
“It takes one person to put their hand up and say, ‘this needs to change’,” Danial said, “And Victoria put her hand up and we heard her.”