Father turns grief into action

After the tragic loss of his son, one man is on a mission to save the lives of other youths.

Eric Windeler is concerned with mental health. He lost his son Jack Windeler to suicide, and Jack may have had severe depression.

With the shock of losing his 18-year-old child, Windeler began to look into why Jack committed suicide.

“I couldn’t let go of the issue that something had to be done and how could this happen to a family out of the blue. And if this happened to our family, we thought we had everything going for us,” Windeler said.

After researching Jack’s state in school and finding out that he had acted differently in the last days of his life, Windeler concluded that his son might have been depressed. He began to realize that mental health is something often overlooked.

“Mental health is a much more serious issue. Especially because the onset is with young people. Seventy-five per cent of diagnoses or occurrences are happening before someone is 24,” Windeler said.

In a partnership with Kids Help Phone, Windeler created a memorial fund in his son’s name, which turned into the Jack Project, a charity focusing on promoting youth mental health awareness and aiding people with emotional well-being. They focus on issues and agents of help surrounding youth such as peers, parents and educators.

Windeler wants people to know that mental health is more than just a label. He compares someone who is suffering from depression to someone who is suffering from cancer. Neither person is their disease. The message Windeler tries to get across is that we can all help someone who is suffering.

“We’ve gotta crash through that stigma,” Windeler said.