World Mental Health Day: reflecting on Light Up Purple and the future

October 10, 2012 is a day that changed my world. Waking up that morning, I never imagined the day would end with me having to say ‘good-bye’ to my daughter, Amanda, who took her life earlier that day.

Caring for Amanda during her experiences of bullying, cyberbullying and mental health related disorders was both stressful and difficult. Reading back on emails and letters from October 2012 is heartbreaking. Yet at the same time, the messages illustrate how important Amanda’s story is and why we must continue to move forward in sharing it. This is what she would have wanted. If Amanda only knew how she has influenced the world.

I have spent the last 6 years since Amanda’s death learning, listening and experiencing. Never did I think that I would put it all together through Amanda’s Legacy and by advocating for other families and individuals battling the same experiences. I also didn’t know that October 10 was World Mental Health Day until after Amanda’s death, and I am positive she never knew either. But as the world flows, October 10 became and always will be an instrumental day in my life.

Light Up Purple

In honour of Amanda and her favourite colour purple, the Legacy launched Light Up Purple in 2013. The annual campaign raises awareness about World Mental Health Day and was inspired six years ago after I visited Ontario, where a young man had arranged to have the Niagara Falls illuminated in purple for my visit.

We’ve gained significant momentum since 2013 despite a slow start; not knowing what Amanda’s Legacy was about or where it would be going, people were slow to jump on board in the early days. With the help of social media to generate interest, and as more people learned about Amanda’s story, understanding that it was about both bullying and mental health, participation grew. In 2014, Pattison Outdoor Signs showed support for the campaign by generously donating World Mental Health Day messaging on 200 LED signboards across Canada. Another key highlight came in 2016, when the London Eye in the United Kingdom lit up purple. In 2017, the Luminous Veil in Toronto, Ontario changed colour from white to purple for the very first time.

Over the past six years, Light Up Purple has grown into a recognizable event across Canada and the US, with increasing international participation as well. Seeing more than 120 bridges, structures, buildings and other landmarks lighting up in purple and acknowledging the need for continued discussions around mental health, year after year, is proof that the topic is important to so many people.

I extend my thanks to the individuals, workplaces and schools that have participated and continue to participate to help raise awareness about why #MentalHealthMatters.

Looking forward: the future of Amanda’s Legacy and my work

What does the future bring? A year after Amanda’s passing I said that I didn’t have an idea of what the future would bring and it continues to be a difficult question to answer. I thought Amanda’s story would fade away quietly and everyone would forget. I was very wrong. Each and every year, I am more amazed at the influence Amanda and her story have had on others, both young and old.

I have always said that I would talk about Amanda and share her story until there were no more listeners. But that hasn’t happened. If anything, more want to hear about her story and how it relates to our changing world with technology and youth. I take each year month by month and week by week. There seems to be surprises around each corner. Another relatable story. Another piece to the puzzle about technology, young people, families, mental health, cyber abuse and the list goes on.

So, for now, I will continue on this journey, advocating for education and awareness related to mental health, wellness, online safety and cyberbullying. I believe it is critical, more so than ever before, to continue engaging in a dialogue about these topics, and to bring youth, parents, and educators together to #EndBullying, promote wellness, and enable a safe digital world.