In the span of two months, Oliver Munar had suicide touch his life. He was just starting graduate school when two people associated with the program died suddenly.
“It was a tough way to start a new chapter of my life,” he recalls. “I was new to the area and didn’t know the two people very well, but a lot of people around me did. I could see and feel the pain. It was palpable in every class, in every activity. Having lost two dear friends to suicide and having been treated for clinical depression myself, I thought it was important to remind my peers of where they can turn for help and advice.”
Both deaths directly affected his instructor and mentor, Elizabeth Turnbull, who is now the president of the Edmonton-based Mysterious Barricades Concert Society. The society is now in its second year of organizing free concerts across the country to promote awareness about mental health and wellness, including treatment programs and facilities.
“Beth never ceases to amaze and inspire me,” Oliver says. “She took a deep, personal tragedy and channeled it into a worthwhile cause to promote discussion, healing, and hope.”
This year, Calgary is on Mysterious Barricades’ list of host cities for the first time. Local resource groups, such as the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Centre for Suicide Prevention, and Distress Centre Calgary, have partnered with Mysterious Barricades for this local event, and will be at the concert to answer questions about their programs. The Calgary event is organized by Professor Laura Hynes, the head of the Voice program at the University of Calgary. An accomplished soprano, Hynes will also perform.
“I am honoured to be a part of this event, bringing the University of Calgary together with community partners and some of the best musical talent in the city,” says Hynes. “There is nothing like music to illuminate a complicated piece of what it means to be human, allowing us to reflect on how any of us might be touched by mental illness, and giving us a chance to raise our voices in a chorus of support for those who are struggling.
“I’m grateful for the presence and generous involvement of our partners in bringing this concert to Calgary. We couldn’t have done this without them.”
When Oliver learned about the Calgary concert, he knew he had to be involved.
“I’m lucky I’ve had the means to seek out help when I needed it most,” Oliver says. “I can relate to how dark the world can become. But there are so many resources that can help us, and I’m glad I had those moments of clarity to acknowledge them and to reach out.”
And on Sunday, Oliver will also perform in the Calgary concert.
“I was happy to help out with the project last year and I’m pleased to lend my voice to the concert in Calgary this year.”