Reflecting on Mental Health Awareness Month

This week marks month 14 of the COVID-19 pandemic, a global health crisis that doesn’t seem to be going away. We go from lockdown to no lockdown to starting to live a somewhat normal life only to be dragged back into another lockdown.

I’m not here to talk about the politics surrounding COVID-19 or lockdowns but to talk about something that has become more and more prevalent as the pandemic continues – our Mental Health.

People are struggling. People are not at their best. You may see that in your everyday lives or you may actually see that in how some people treat others. We’ve seen something we’ve taken for granted be taken away from us, our freedom. Now our lives revolve around zoom calls, phone calls and extended time with our immediate family as we hope for normal days ahead.

You may recall back in December I wrote about one of those instances in our Management company where we had a student tenant cry out for mental health support.

Let’s go back to December 31, 2020, it was 4:30pm and I had to do a moveout at 4:30 pm, but not a great one – a cash for keys type deal at a student rental we manage. The student had some mental health concerns but agreed to move out, for cash. 4:30pm turned to 6:00pm, then turned to 7:00pm, which then turned into 8:00pm.

The cash for keys is a dance, one I had to play. But then things took a turn, the student had nowhere to go and nowhere to take his things. It was another road block and another problem we had to solve.

But then he said something that threw me. One of those things that you can’t un-hear and something that was truly chilling.

As I tried to solve more of these objections, the next words out of his mouth were “I’m not planning on being around in the next couple of days to come back and get my things”.

I froze.

I couldn’t believe I heard what I heard.

What do you mean, I asked?

Well, I’m going to kill myself.

I felt like the busy, just in time life around us had just frozen as I heard this. I couldn’t unhear it and well, I felt helpless.

I continued to talk to the student about how life is worth living and how maybe he should get some help which he was not interested in.

We talked a little longer and an hour later, he took what he could out of his room, we agreed we could come back before the end of January to get the rest of his things, he gave me the keys and I gave him the cash.

Once that was done, I circled back to his comments earlier.

What did you mean, I asked?

He said it again, I’m going to kill myself.

This time I was more prepared.

Listen, I said. Life is worth living regardless of how tough it is, but let me do something for you, let me get you some help.

Again, he declined.

I told him, listen, I don’t have a choice in the matter. You can choose to leave, or you can stay with me, but I’m going to call.

Let me sit with you and we can chat while we wait.

To my surprise, he stayed while I called 911 to report a wellness check.

The police where there shortly after the call and while we waited, we sat on the sidewalk talking about the student, his courses, what his interests were and what he hoped to do once graduating.

It was calm for him and a sense of normalcy and a good conversation.

As a landlord and a PM, I had no clue what to do, so I did what anyone would do. I asked for help.

You see, a good friend of mine is a social worker, and I leaned on her for help, direction, and advice. She encouraged me to make the call, which in turn helped a young, troubled student from making a temporary decision that could’ve been permanent.

I tell you this story because it’s important to realize that we don’t need to have all the answers, but we do need to know who to call if we don’t have those answers.

I learned a lot on this particular occasion and I am grateful to have had the support of someone who has, unfortunately, worked through countless similar situations during her career but for those of us who have not, there are a number of services available that could help educate and provide us with basic skills on how to manage these types of situations.

As we head towards the one year mark of when the first Covid lock down started, and Covid is not looking like it’s letting up, it’s really important to be prepared for these situations.

SafeTALK s a half-day alertness workshop that prepares anyone over the age of 15, regardless of prior experience or training, to become a suicide-alert helper.

Most people with thoughts of suicide don’t truly want to die, but are struggling with the pain in their lives. Through their words and actions, they invite help to stay alive.

SafeTALK-trained helpers can recognize these invitations and take action by connecting them with life-saving intervention resources.

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is for everyone 16 or older – regardless of prior experience – who wants to be able to provide suicide first aid. The ASIST model teaches effective intervention skills while helping to build suicide prevention networks in the community.

More often than not, these trainings are offered by your local Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) so I would encourage you to reach out and get informed.

Real estate is about people, not bricks and mortar and as investors, we need to always remember to treat other as we want to be treated.

I’ve never experienced what this student went through, however, if I had, I would’ve hoped that my landlord would’ve done what I did to help that student. The message is simple. Take care of yourself. There is no weakness in asking for help. We’re all struggling and better days are ahead. But if you need help, it’s only one call away.