“There is no logical reason why I should still be alive after the life that I have led, other than I feel that I am here to carry a message. And I’m very grateful to be able to do so,” says Allan Kehler who is celebrating some 13 years of sobriety after a decade battling addictions. He says his challenges with mental health started in grade eight.
The mental health advocate is sharing his story around the region this week with stops in Wainwright, Provost and Lloydminster as World Suicide Prevention Day is being observed on Saturday Sept. 10.
Kehler is now married and has four boys and four dogs. While in active addiction, he tried many times to harm himself and eventually he says he realized “that silence is not the answer and he had to learn to be vulnerable.” He says he had to learn to find his voice and talk about his pain.
“When I started to share my story, I started to hear those words from other people,’Me too.’ And just like that I realized that I’m not alone in these struggles. And that’s the power of us collectively using our voice.”
He says often and even in rural communities, people feel alienated and alone in their battles. He says he started to change as he “became honest with himself and started to look in the mirror.”
“The reality is, I find life hard. But the difference is today I have supports around me and I understand how important it is for me to use my voice when I’m struggling. And yes, those supports systems are in place for me.”
As a mental health advocate he has been sharing his journey at schools, community events, jails, corporate functions and treatment centres.
Turning to the news of the day and current events which can be triggering to some people, Kehler discusses the various approaches spanning those who tune out news altogether as opposed to those who follow the tragedies that unfold each day.
“For those of us who choose to listen to what’s going on, what happens is, it provokes a lot of very strong emotions. It’s everything from anxiety to anger to fear. And I think for me, the key is always giving myself permission to feel it. But not letting myself be consumed by it.”
He says we can either focus on what’s going wrong or dial in on what’s going right. He adds in times like these, it’s important to connect and reach out to others.
Kehler is speaking in Wainwright, Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. Friday he will be in Provost, at 1 p.m. and then Saturday evening in Lloydminster at the Legacy Centre. That event is already fully booked.