“Love is all you need,” reads the memorial plaque beneath an Amur Cherry tree in a park in Edmonton, Canada. The tree was planted for Hillary Rose Werthmann, an affectionate 20-year old who would give hugs just because, and would often tell her family and friends how much she loved them. Yet despite the love around her, Hillary struggled within herself, and on May 8, 2003 she passed away in her living room, after overdosing on pills.
Hillary’s father, Bill, had visited her apartment earlier in the day after receiving a phone call from a worried ex-boyfriend. Hillary was exhausted, barely having slept the night before. Bill visited for over an hour, helping with her resume and cover letters for some job postings that had piqued her interest. Before leaving, Hillary assured Bill that she was ok. So, reluctantly, he left.
The next time Bill was in the apartment, the job applications were completed, waiting in stamped addressed envelopes, ready to mail. But Hillary was gone.
Hillary first talked about seeking help for mental health issues that March, two-months before her death. She saw at least two different experts, and was prescribed anti-depressants, yet on the outside, she was the same Hillary. The same Hillary that would speak out against injustices, make her classmates laugh, and fuel arguments between her three older siblings. No one realised how troubled she was.
Funny, beautiful and smart, Hillary left everyone who knew her wondering what might have been, and if there was anything they could have done to save her. Consolation comes from the love that Hillary shared, and the love of her friends and family today.
Her memorial plaque says it best: “Love is all you need.”
Hillary As A Number:
Hillary was 1 of the 3,765 Canadians who died of suicide in 2003.
In the age bracket 15-24, she was just 1 of the 522 suicides.
That’s 22.7% of the deaths in the age range 15-24, caused by suicide.
Suicide is the second most common cause of death, after accidents, for 15-24 year olds in Canada.
The numbers aren’t significantly changing.
We need to break the silence on suicide.
Source: Statistics Canada
(Comparison: 463 deaths or 21.5% of 15-24 year-olds died of suicide in Canada in 2008 (most recent figures))
I have two sisters who suffer from mental illness, who cannot access appropriate treatment because it isn’t there. I seem to live my life to support them in any way I can but at times anxiety overwhelm and depression overwhelm me too. There is no support for families except through non-profits like CMHA and their funding has been cut. I would do anything to raise awareness and shake people up enough to care. 1 in 5 Canadians suffer Mental Illness or Addiction and mental illness costs us twice as much as physical illnesses (recent study from UofT) but as a society we refuse to fund research and treatments that might help. I’d like to ride for Hiliary and all the rest of us.
Hello, Linda. I am sorry for all that your family has experienced and continues to experience. Thank you for your offer “to ride” for Hillary. For this cross-Canada ride we have limited to three riders. We had originally hoped to be able to open it to people joining along the way on their own, but insurance did not allow this to happen. We hope in the future to coordinate shorter rides, e.g. Edmonton to Banff, that could be opened to the public. Please take care, Linda.
Linda, my heart goes out to you and I am willing to help you and your sisters.
Depression is the unspoken most prevalent silent illness out there for so many of us.
I’ve just returned to Edmonton and would feel great pride in being involved with Hilliary’s Ride in any way I can and with helping Linda out as I am able.
We are all more than a number, deserving to be heard and seen.
Please contact me at my email –
I see most of the fundraising events are taking place in Edmonton. For those who are interested in making a contribution to Hillary’s Ride, what is the process to do so? For example, is there an on-line credit card payment form, would cheques be mailed to a specific address, etc.?
Hi Jude (Betty jo here). We are in the process of setting up a “contribute now” button on the website. Had thought of taking the ride through Calgary, even up to Edmonton, but added a lot of km and time so thought we should go as direct as possible. Thanks for your interest, and feel free to spread the word!
I lost my beloved sister, Sheiila, to suicide almost 3 years ago. I read your story about Hillary and my sister’s story is alarmingly similar. I applaud your courage to embark on such a touching and meaningful Ride. I made a small donation in hopes that it helps raise awareness one pedal at a time.
Thank you, Sandy, for your support, every bit small or large makes a very big difference. I am sorry to hear about your sister. There are too many stories out there that we are hearing. Blessings to you.
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Hi Bill. We met in our gallery and my heart goes out to you and wish you well to bring attention to this issue.
You may find this link helpful as it shows this is not uncommon.
I’ve been blessed with a daughter (now 31) who has fought with, and almost died from, clinical depression. Blessed because she went to lengths to get her mother and I to know what was going on with her. (It wasn’t until she told me, in a fit of rage, that if she had a gun, she’d put into her mouth and pull the trigger that I realized that she was in really deep trouble.) Blessed because she helped us understand depression by providing us with a video and books. Blessed because she knew that if we understood what was going on, we’d be able to empathize as a way of helping her. Blessed because she knew the damage anti-depression drugs and bad food were doing to her, and she ensures that her family eats healthily too.
When her mother died, she found strength in living by taking care of her before she died. When she had her first baby, she found purpose in taking care of her (and her other) children that followed. She found joy in going out her way to help others, no matter their circumstances.
But I empathize with you and your family, and the many others who suffer from this incalculable and cruel condition because depression takes as many different forms as there are different people that it affects. I also believe, however, that by helping sufferers of depression discover purpose for their lives, by showing them the value their talent can bring to help fellow sufferers, by taking on responsibilities that depend almost entirely on them, and by having faith in and trusting God (most important), they can survive depression to lead productive and loving lives.
I really believe that your trip was super fruitful, and that it will be the seed needed to get the attention of Jr. and Sr. high educators so that folks like you and me will have the opportunity to address students (both sufferers and non-sufferers who can act as a means for support), in school-wide seminars and presentations about the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of clinical depression.
Just saying. Thanks for the space to say this, and continued best wishes to you and your family.