November 10th, 2019

My message to you is simple, don’t give up and ask for help

Cpl Nick Polegato speaks on mental health struggles in the military, and how he copes with it.
Men's Health | Mental Health | In the Barber Chair
5 MIN READ
 

Growing up, my mother was diagnosed with depression. At the time, mental health wasn't even a buzz word. It was looked at as an incurable disease that very few people understood or cared to understand. I was among that group of people.

I believed that it was all in her head and she had full control over her thoughts and actions that reflected the way she felt. Unknown to me, 15 years later, I would be fighting to bring awareness to everyone, so that we could help anyone who is struggling.
 
In 2013, I joined the Canadian Forces. Throughout the stages of training, we spent time learning about PTSD, suicide awareness, stress management and coping mechanisms. At the time, it all seemed like another lesson, a check in the box for us to move onto the next chapter of the lesson plan. It’s easy to overlook what’s being taught when you haven’t slept in weeks because your room needs to be ready for inspection or you’ve been out training in the field for several weeks, only to find yourself in a classroom the next morning. It wasn't until I myself started struggling with my mental health and required a mental health checkup.
 
In 2016, I got posted to Winnipeg, having been away from friends and family for several years, I realized that something wasn’t normal with my behavior. I was angry, felt alone and didn’t want to do things that use to excite me. This had been going on for several months before I realized it was time to talk to somebody. The first time you admit to yourself that you aren’t ok is one of the hardest feelings in the world. Next, comes having the courage to share that with the medical staff on base

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CPL NICK POLEGATO, HOUSE OF BARONS 
 

After the first session with my social worker, I knew that mental toughness and mental health awareness was simply not something that can be taught and forgotten about. It is something that needs to be worked on regularly, and with purpose, to ensure that we are all working towards better ourselves and our mental health. This can be particularly important when we are posted away, on courses, or deployments. Being able to reach in our mental health tool box and finding the right solutions, helps to keep us focused and allows us the ability to complete our jobs.
 
I believe that being in uniform, we feel the need to be strong and tough. We don’t often want to open up about how we feel because it’s perceived as weak or it could cost us the job that we love to do. Most times, it just feels like we are experiencing the pain alone, in our own minds. We often forget to look to the brothers and sisters that we have watching our backs every day. We forget that we are all facing our own struggles and that the person right next to you wants to help.

 
“My message to you is simple, don’t give up and ask for help. Your fight is not over and we are all still here by your side. Reach out. Because you may not be ok, and that’s ok.”
 

Working alongside the finest men and women in uniform, a demographic that struggles greatly with mental health issues, I knew that bringing awareness, openly talking about my own struggles and sharing my techniques for gaining mental toughness and resilience, that I could be a part of the solution. I knew that if I could help one person overcome their struggles, the effects would cascade. That is why I participate year after in year in Movember and continue to raise awareness for men’s mental health.
 
Remembrance Day is a day to remember the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice. But we must also not forget those who came home but are not the same. My message to you is simple, don’t give up and ask for help. Your fight is not over and we are all still here by your side. Reach out. Because you may not be ok, and that’s ok.