Remembered as a kind and generous teenager who cared deeply about the welfare of others and whose presence lit up a room, Levi Busat loved hockey and hunting, spending much of his time on the ice or in the bush. with his truck.
He was months away from his 18th birthday when he took his own life on April 29, 2021, and he is deeply mourned by his family, friends and the Ponoka community.
“Levi was the most caring, compassionate and generous child,” said Arlene Henkelman, his mother. “He always, always had a smile on his face.”
She added that he had special concern for those who were unable to afford necessities.
When Busat was at a hockey tournament in Vancouver as a 13-year-old and saw homeless people who lived in one part of town, he wanted to make sure they had food and clothes.
“We’ve always donated to organizations because of his push.”
Henkelman said his son was an exceptional hockey player. He started playing when he was three years old and by six he was playing at the AAA level.
While time hasn’t diminished the loss of her son, Henkelman had some thoughts to share on suicide awareness, mental health, and finding help if you’re fighting yourself or are a loved one. someone who ended their life by suicide.
“If someone tells you something, don’t dismiss it,” Henkelman said.
Although Busat’s symptoms were not ignored and they sought help for him, she stressed how important it is to always listen and take mental health issues seriously.
Busat had no known history of mental health issues, and Henkelman said for him it was more situational as he was going through a tough time with some of the circumstances in his life, one of which was the pandemic.
Being a very social person, restrictions and distancing were difficult for him, she said.
Although he was struggling, there didn’t appear to be an obvious crisis point and his internal struggle was “masked,” Henkelman said.
The most important thing she wants people struggling with their mental health to know is that they should never feel embarrassed.
“Never be ashamed. The stigma of mental health issues – it has to stop,” Henkelman said.
Tragically, Henkelman’s life has already been touched by suicide, when his brother Egon took his own life 27 years ago.
“Being both a parent and a sibling…I was stigmatized like he was just a cop, they didn’t know how to deal with their stress, which really affected me when people talk that way,” said Henkelmann.
Over the years, some of the comments she’s heard have been very critical and upsetting, she said.
“I would never say that Levi or Egon were weak people or that they did it for attention or anything like that,” she said.
“I think what people struggle with internally, on the inside, is sometimes missed.”
She pointed out that how people treat others can have a bigger impact than they realize and that they need to be aware of how negative words or actions can affect people’s self-esteem. another person.
Generally speaking, she said she believes that bullying, whether at school or at work, affects people in different ways and is an issue that needs to be addressed more when talking about mental health.
Henkelman said to always ask for help and don’t stop until you’re connected to the right resource.
She called two counselors and received no response, but the third she contacted was able to see Busat the same day.
She also strongly recommends counseling for people who have lost someone to suicide.
Although she faced barriers when it came to accessing private support resources, she said she received great support from the community.
“The Ponoka community has been amazing,” she said, adding that initiatives such as the annual Suicide Prevention Walk are so important because it is an acknowledgment that suicide is a real problem and that people people need to be aware of and actively work towards prevention.
In 2021, Henkelman had long-sleeved sports shirts made for Busat’s family and close friends to wear on the second annual Suicide Prevention Walk. The shirts are purple, for Busat’s favorite color, and feature the purple and teal ribbon for Suicide Prevention Awareness and his name and jersey number with Ponoka Minor Hockey, No. 12.
Busat’s former midget hockey team also remembers him and fellow teammate Sam Neath with memorial patches on jerseys that were donated by the Neath family.
Henkelman, in conjunction with Ponoka Family and Community Support Services, launched a scholarship on behalf of Busat last year. The $1,000 scholarship is awarded to students heading into the humanities such as health or psychology.
Henkelman says that while she puts on a brave face to get through each day, the grief is always present.
“I know it’s something that’s never going to go away, but it’s hard to put that face on when I miss it.”