One of Kyle Bazansky's sons runs Step Up For Mental Health in his memory.

Stigmas around mental health linger — that’s why Danielle Tournier started running

2020 was the worst year of Danielle Tournier’s life.

In the throes of the pandemic her husband, Kyle Bazansky, was struggling immensely with his mental health and Tournier’s own mental health suffered as she tried to help him. Though Tournier had never been an athletic person — that was Bazansky’s domain — she registered for Step Up for Mental Health.

“I wanted to find as many ways as I could to support him and show him that mental health was important and you should seek mental health help,” she explains.

Tournier began training outside their home in rural Saskatchewan, cheered on by Bazansky and their two young sons. But Bazansky never saw her run her virtual race; he died by suicide on Sept. 17, 2020. He was 34 years old.

Weeks after her husband’s death, Tournier set out to do the five kilometre run she had signed up for. It was the hardest thing she’d ever done — and a source of strength.

“The reason I signed up for that run was to support Kyle’s mental health and I thought: I can’t stop now because I have two boys and I need to keep showing them how important it is,” she says. “I wanted to stay strong … I wanted to help show others that I am stepping up for them and I’m showing up for them. I just didn’t want to give up.”

Danielle Tournier, Kyle Bazansky and their two sons.
Danielle Tournier, Kyle Bazansky and their two sons. Bazansky is remembered for always going “over and above” for his boys.

Tournier is sharing her story because she wants to normalize speaking about mental health and battle the stigma that continues to hang around getting help for mental health, particularly for men.

“I wish I could have helped Kyle find the strength he needed to overcome his internal battles. Kyle was so deserving of a full life, he deserved a second chance. He deserved health and happiness and peace. He deserved to to experience all of the joys of raising his two boys and all of the special moments associated (with that),” Tournier says.

Tournier and Bazansky met in their early 20s through Tournier’s sister, who was dating one of Bazansky’s friends. They hit it off immediately. “Kyle was just a really happy person. He was always trying to make others laugh,” Tournier says. “He always seemed like the kind of person who was very unfazed by things. He just took life as it was and he made the best of it.”

Kyle Bazansky and Danielle Tournier.
Kyle Bazansky and Danielle Tournier met in their mid 20s and things clicked immediately.

The pair had two boys together and Bazansky loved being a father, always becoming very invested and involved in the games they played. “They would be playing with their stuffies and pretending to be Mario and Luigi and he would be voicing Princess Peach on the sidelines,” Tournier says. Bazansky would famously haul every mattress in the house to the living room so he and the boys could have their very own Royal Rumble. “He always went over and above for his boys.”

Despite Bazansky’s outwardly sunny persona, he struggled with mental health and things hit a low in 2020. His death that fall came two decades after his father, Brian, died by suicide.

“Men’s mental health, it’s just been at the forefront for me,” Tournier says. “I have two boys that I’m raising and that’s why I feel it’s so important to speak up and hopefully set things in the right direction to find more help and more support for people that are suffering.”

Kyle Bazansky stands between his two sons.
Kyle Bazansky stands between his two sons.

These days, Tournier cares for her own mental health by speaking with a counsellor and has found peace through running and yoga. Running is a way for her to meditate and it helps her channel her grief and sadness. She has participated in Step Up for Mental Health every fall since Bazansky’s death, running the races virtually near her home in St. Isidore-de-Bellevue. She loves that the run creates opportunities to talk about mental health and that it raises money for mental health projects and programs in Saskatchewan through the Cameco Fund for Mental Health. Her sons now do the run through their school and this year one wore his dad’s name on his bib.

What she’s told her boys — and what she wants everyone to hear — is that mental health struggles are real and serious. While seeking help can be hard and unnerving, it is worth it if it gets you through one more day.

“I just hope someone can have a success story by hearing ours,” Tournier says.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of self-harm or experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact: Crisis Services Canada (1-833-456-4566), Saskatoon Mobile Crisis (306-933-6200), Prince Albert Mobile Crisis Unit (306-764-1011), Regina Mobile Crisis Services (306-525-5333) or the Hope for Wellness Help Line, which provides culturally competent crisis intervention counselling support for Indigenous peoples at (1-855-242-3310).