This story is from 2019 but has been updated with 2020 comments by Senator Brazeau.
A lot can change in three years. Sen. Patrick Brazeau knows that better than many people — something he didn’t hesitate to point out on Twitter last week.
“3 years ago today, I tried to commit suicide because I had no job, no money, no self worth... I survived to write this message. Life is worth living,” he tweeted on Jan. 19, adding that he was soon-to-be married to his fiancée, Marie-Claire, and has his hands joyfully full with his newly born sixth child.
In early 2016, Brazeau's mind was in a dark place, he told HuffPost Canada in a phone interview, and he attempted suicide on Jan. 18 that year. He survived, thanks in part to a neighbour who called emergency services in time for paramedics to break down his door and find him seriously injured in his home.
He woke up two days later after having been in a medically induced coma, the Ottawa Citizen reported.
"I'm just glad to be alive ... and I'm a damn lucky guy I still have my family with me," he said in an interview with the newspaper last year.
He told HuffPost that he made the commemorative post because he wanted others who might be in a dark place or suffering with mental illness to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
"I think it was a message of hope because I think people who have related mental health issues — that there is hope and it doesn't matter what creed or colour you may come from, how much money you have — it could happen to anybody. It's an admission that it certainly happened to me and I was able to slowly get through it," Brazeau said.
The senator also encouraged people who are struggling with mental health issues and thoughts of suicide to reach out to the people around them, like their friends and family.
"It's only when I decided to talk about these issues that it opened up my eyes ... I'm certainly in a lot better headspace than I ever was in my life."
Brazeau's life took a turn for the worse when he was involved in a series of scandals — a period that was also marked with substance abuse, according to CBC News.
He was removed from the Conservative caucus in 2013 after being arrested for domestic and sexual assault. He later pleaded guilty to simple assault and cocaine possession. He was acquitted of sexual assault, and other charges were dropped as part of a plea deal. Brazeau was granted an absolute discharge in 2015 and was left with no criminal record.
He was also one of four senators accused of improperly reporting expenses in 2013, which led to a three-year suspension from the Senate. The Crown withdrew charges of fraud and breach of trust in 2016.
"I just got to a point where I was tired to fight," he told the CBC last fall when discussing his suicide attempt. "Tired to hear my name in the papers, to hear people talk about me, to say negative things, when I knew the truth, but I just couldn't get it out there. I felt helpless."
But Brazeau now believes that life is all about getting another shot, and he thinks Canadians would agree.
"Canadians are smart people, they're fair people and they're people who certainly are all about second chances."
Brazeau wants to use his personal experience with mental health and suicide to help others — particularly boys and men who may be more reluctant to reach out for assistance.
"I went through difficult personal situations but also professional as well ... I found it very difficult to have false charges against me and unfortunately at that time I was — you know, I still had a little bit of pride and a little bit of an ego and I didn't necessarily rush to go seek help," Brazeau said.
"I think that's the problem in society especially with men today because we're raised to be proud and tough and ... you know maybe not seek help."
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Brazeau looked to his own upbringing as an example of the way boys and men are socialized to suppress their emotions.
"I was raised with a lot of principles, to be tough and to deal with things differently, but unfortunately that's not always the way that we as men should be coping with stress and aggression and other mental health issues and addiction," he said.
"There's a stigma and it's still taboo but I, as a man, and as a father, as a friend, as a brother, I can certainly try to do my best to start that conversation so that people listen to the experiences that I went through and maybe they can have a link with that or feel a little bit closer to what I'm saying and perhaps that can lead to something better."
Brazeau, who is an Algonquin from the Kitigan Zibi reserve near Maniwaki, Que., was appointed to the Senate by then-prime minister Stephen Harper in 2008 while he was national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples — becoming the third-youngest person to ever sit in the upper chamber and the 15th-ever Indigenous senator ever.
But he's perhaps best known for his 2012 boxing match against Justin Trudeau, who was an MP at the time.
At 44, Brazeau could spend the next 31 years as a Canadian senator.
“I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy what I had to go through but you know it’s time to move on, it’s time to focus on where I can bring the most contribution to the discussion and I’m looking forward to being a team player in doing so.”
Brazeau said he plans to commission research about mental health over the course of this year.
“I will be doing something on my own to essentially put a focus on men because we known that men commit suicide more than women, they tend to reach out less. Certainly this is pervasive in Indigenous communities as well,” he said.
“I don’t know what the conclusion of the research will be but certainly there will be a focus on men and young boys. I’m certainly looking forward to giving back and hopefully helping somebody in need.”
Are you in a crisis? If you need help, contact Crisis Services Canada at their website or by calling 1-833-456-4566. If you know someone who may be having thoughts of suicide, visit CAMH’s resource to learn how to talk about suicide with the person you’re worried about.
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