How the family of an Abbotsford hiker is helping others struggling with mental illness
Content warning: This story includes references to suicide.
This story was originally published on March 22, 2022, in the first edition of The Current’s newsletter. BeMorr Society is holding its second Wandering Warriors Hike For Mental Health. You can register here.
Brook Morrison was a beloved local hiker, colleague, brother and son. But he struggled with depression, anxiety and PTSD following his father’s suicide in 2013. In 2020, he took his own life.
“Everyone loved him,” Brook’s family says. And there is plenty of evidence to support that. After Brook died, Lepp Farm Market, where he worked, posted an extensive tribute to the “kind and adventurous young man” who worked at the Abbotsford business for eight years. Hikers across northwestern North America did the same (Brook had gone semi-viral in 2018 by posting about how he had quit his job to hike the Pacific Coast Trail.)
“He was the ultimate addition to any hiking crew,” one wrote.
Brook’s family have now started BeMorr Society, a non-profit seeking to reduce stigma about mental health, and raise money to connect people to treatment. The Current recently spoke to Brook’s mother, Anne-Marie Morrison, and sister-in-law, Danielle Morrison, about Brook and the need for better access to mental health treatment.
FVC: Why was hiking so important to Brook?
Anne-Marie: “He learned from a young age all about the outdoors because his dad was big on the outdoors and fishing … When he really got into his hiking, you could say that was his therapy. He would have a couple days off work … and he would go do an overnight campout on a mountaintop. His favourite thing was to watch that sunset, and in the morning, the sunrise. That was just his happy place.”
FVC: Is there still a barrier between the willingness to talk about mental health and the willingness to go for more formal help?
Danielle: “It’s one thing to reach out initially, but [it’s important] to continue to see people or to continue to talk about it. It’s ongoing. You have to work towards it. It’s just like your physical health. You work on it; it’s not just going for one or two sessions and being done.… But we know that there’s still that barrier of cost, which is what we’re trying to eliminate.”
If you are having thoughts of suicide, you can talk to someone at 1-800-784-2433. Other help is also available.