ERIN – Phil Gravelle and his wife Jean have launched a fundraising drive to support Erin’s Main Place Youth Centre in memory of their son, who died 10 years ago.
Thomas Gravelle took his own life on May 28, 2012, at the age of 24, after years of struggling with mental illness.
To mark the 10-year anniversary of his passing, his family is encouraging donations to support the Main Place Youth Centre, where Thomas once worked as a volunteer.
Phil said he was aware the centre was looking for ongoing support and it was when he and his wife were walking past the centre one day that Jean suggested that with Thomas’s 10-year anniversary coming up, they should make a donation in his honour to the centre.
They later decided they would also encourage other people to donate.
“And it would also do something positive,” Phil said.
“Instead of just feeling sad that he died 10 years ago, that we would actually be helping some people, young people.
“So it was something constructive. It was something positive.”
The family, in partnership with East Wellington Community Services (EWCS), has set up a crowdfunding page that has raised $3,350 as of May 20.
Phil said the new centre seemed like a good fit as “they promote a connection with the community, which can be an issue for young people.”
While they lived in Erin, Phil said Thomas always had to travel outside the community to access professional treatment.
“So having local service is good,” he explained.
“But it’s not just the convenience of it being local, it’s the fact that young people will realize that there’s a community all around them that can help to care for them.”
He added, “It’ll just be helping to raise the profile of the centre for people who don’t know much about it.
“And also give them a little boost to their budget and remind people that it’s a worthwhile cause.”
Phil said the fundraiser also acts as a way for himself and his wife, as well as the community, to remember Thomas.
“By helping other people kind of honour the memory of somebody, you can’t really define it exactly, but it’s a way to remember without feeling sad,” he explained.
“It’s something that we’re now able to think about and talk about, without it being debilitating.”
Phil said his family was always disappointed in the mental health care system, both the staffing and the realization that scientific knowledge about mental health was still very incomplete.
“And that psychiatrists are basically doing a trial-and-error process with their medications,” he said.
“They really don’t know what’s going to work or not work.”
Phil said suicide will likely never really be eliminated within society, adding “that seems to be a weakness or a vulnerability that that exists.
“To think that you could eliminate it might be naïve,” he explained.
“But on the other hand, the fact that you can make a difference, you can reduce it, you can help people cope.”
As a columnist for the Erin Advocate at the time of Thomas’ death, Phil decided to write about his family’s reaction right away.
“It really attracted a lot of attention from people who had similar problems in their families,” Phil explained.
“And so it makes you realize that it’s not an uncommon problem.
“People who’ve gone through this really do need to talk about it, and I know that there are parents out there who are right now in the same situation that we were in, where the child is at risk and they can feel quite alone,” he added.
“And so when there’s an opportunity to bring it out into the open, it’s actually a positive thing.”
The family asks that the community join them in honouring Thomas’ life and supporting youth mental health services by making a donation to the Main Place Youth Centre.
To donate, visit ewcs.crowdchange.ca/13797. Donations will be accepted until June 15.
More information can also be found on EWCS Facebook page.
For more information about the centre, visit eastwellingtoncommunityservices.com.