An estimated 500 people gathered at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel to hear guest speaker Margaret Trudeau at the Surrey Board of Trade’s (SBOT) annual Women in Business Awards Thursday afternoon.
The widow of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and mother of current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Margaret Trudeau is an author of four books, including a best-seller (Changing My Mind).
At one of the SBOT’s biggest functions of the year, Trudeau spoke about the challenges she faced in dealing with mental illness.
“I was someone with mental illness who was in denial, who did not accept you have to reach out for help and that you can’t help yourself,” she said. “You need a third party, you need to ask for help.”
Trudeau shared stories of her struggles following the death of her youngest son in 1988. Michel Trudeau was swept into a lake by an avalanche in the Kootenays.
“My son’s death, unfortunately, triggered me into the beginning of madness,” she said. “I was locked into a terrible cycle from depression. I threw away everything. I couldn’t process properly the fact my darling boy was dead. I just couldn’t.”
She eventually was admitted to a psychiatric ward and got the professional help she needed.
Today, she is encouraging others to learn more about mental illness and reach out for support.
“I try to make us more aware of mental health,” said Trudeau. “I have to stress this. Depression is not sadness, and it’s not sorrow, and it’s not natural, and it’s not normal.
“We have to have the courage to accept we’re flawed, as others would say, or we’re ill, which is what I would say. And you have to ask for help.”
The SBOT presented five awards to business women at the end of the luncheon. Winners included Noel Asmar of the Noel Asmar Group Inc. (in the Entrepreneur category), Sonia Virk of Virk Viyas and Associate Lawyers (Professional), Louise Tremblay of the Semiahmoo House Soceity (Not-for-Profit Leader), Dona Hurry of the Mansonville Plastics Group of Companies (Corporate/Leadership) and Paola Ardiles of Bridge for Health (Social Trailblazer).