My dad, John Townsend, died of suicide in 2010 between my freshman and sophomore years of college; my younger sister was in her sophomore year of high school. At home, we watched our dad struggle with bipolar disorder throughout our childhood and growing up, a secret that he tried to keep to himself. To those on the outside, our dad was normal, a pillar of the community even.

A perfect Saturday for my dad consisted of rising at 4:30 am, reading over his bible and driving to the YMCA to begin his day with exercise and fellowship. When he returned home, he and his dogs would set off on their morning “paper route” which consisted of his delivering any papers still on the sidewalk to the owner’s doorstep. He would do several blocks and then make his way back home, visiting with neighbors along the way. After, a lunch at Burger House in Dallas with his daughters was next on his list.

Our dad tried to be the best dad that he could be. However, mental health struggles sat below the surface and every day was a struggle to be his best self. As both my sister and I are our approaching our weddings this year, we can’t help but wish that our dad could be there to walk us down the aisle and share a father daughter dance. However, we are unbelievably grateful for the time and memories that we were able to share with him and continue to hold those close.

Transparency and acceptance around mental health are much more prevalent now than they were even just 12 years ago, but we still have work to do. Our dad’s passing has given our remaining family the strength and motivation to focus on our own mental health, as well as be aware of the signs for those around us.

Submitted by Bryn Townsend