Through challenges, one man’s ability to see a light at the end of a seemingly very dark tunnel inspires others through a simple message: it’s gonna get better
Ray Lake is not embarrassed to share he has suffered from mental illness or anxiety and depression for most of his life. “There was a time over the years when I tried to decipher, as a musician, what I was going through. I wrote, maybe not in a direct way, but in a way that more or less described somewhat what I was dealing with,” he began. One of the songs he wrote was called It’s Gonna Get Better.
His thinking at the time was that the song would somehow “uplift” himself and others, though the song sat mostly unheeded.
Just before Christmas 2020, things were about to change. Lake’s wife Cindy works at Gonzaga High School in St. John’s. Cindy approached Gonzaga High School Guidance Counsellor, Tracy Gardiner, and asked if the song could be used as some kind of an uplifting message to help others during these pandemic times.
Gardiner was instantly interested.
“I’m a teacher moderator for the Mental Health Coalition at the school and we wanted a vehicle to promote mental health,” she shared.
A planting of seeds
Utilizing Lake’s personal journey, as well as the song he penned, to create a music video with a sobering yet uplifting theme seemed like a powerful way to share a positive message of hope. Did it work? Indeed it did. “The end result was a positively moving ceremony at the school and I have no doubt that the impact will be long-lasting and powerful and far-reaching,” Gardiner added.
Lake shared how proud he was. “Once I recorded the song I got a bit excited over it. It sounded pretty good. Catchy. Then was the video idea. And once the video was done, I was like, oh wow, this is actually good,” he laughed.
His hope is that the video, with its message of hope, can help others. “You can really relate to people in stress and those who are really depressed over money issues or over romantic issues after failed relationships. It happens to us all but if you’re suffering from any kind of a mental illness, any loss or hardship is triggered to knock you down to a deeper level.”
But everyone deserves to rise again, Lake added. “You have to be willing to help yourself even when you’re in your darkest moments, just like a farm where you plant seeds in spring so they can harvest in the fall. Sometimes with mental illness you’ve got to pull your boot strings and straps, even though it’s very, very difficult from a personal point of view, but with some support the chances are you can weather the storm much better.”
The song It’s Gonna Get Better is really about people going through a really hard time, especially people with mental illness, he continued passionately.
“Everybody goes through tough times in life’s journey. But, there is always hope. This is a song about hope and that’s what every person needs, especially during COVID.”
Krista Vokey is principal at Gonzaga High School. She shared that student mental health is always important and it’s something they give attention to throughout any school year.
But 2020-21 has been more challenging for everyone, she added.
“This year is particularly important to focus on mental health because of the COVID restrictions, and it’s becoming more and more critical that we take the time to take care of each other, that we take care of ourselves, and to build on the relationships we have to help get us through this turbulent period,” Vokey said.
Involving the school in an initiative like It’s Gonna Get Better gave everyone involved, and those who had the pleasure of experiencing the outcome, hope.
“Part of the culture of Gonzaga is making sure there’s an emphasis on looking after each other and reaching out to our community and neighbors and to keep building a stronger relationship with our neighbours. That’s just how we do business here at Gonzaga,” the principal continued.
Second to none
St. Patrick’s Mercy Home is near the school and the two have long held a close relationship. While COVID may have changed things, messages are still shared between the two entities using decorated windows that face one another. It’s the little things, she said.
“I’m so proud of our students and our staff here at Gonzaga who have been so resilient and positive in the face of adversity this year. It’s been a very unusual year and their creativity and dedication has been second to none. The families have been extremely supportive, and consequently we are able to proceed with the school year with the least amount of disruption possible. And we’re just so delighted to be back having face-to-face interactions starting this past fall. It’s been a gift and we’re grateful for that. But there’s still work to do, and a project like It’s Gonna Get Better is part of that valuable work,” Vokey said.
Gardiner couldn’t agree more.
“I love this stuff, and this part of my job – working with kids who want to help others – is so inspirational. The stuff that these kids are doing outside of and in addition to what they do every day in terms of school work, it’s pretty incredible. COVID has changed the world. It’s changed families. COVID has changed these kids too, only I believe it might actually be for the better. They are strong, resilient, powerful and they have proven they can overcome anything. They are proof that things really will, and really can, get better,” Gardiner shared.
Challenges in life
Lake shares that he knows good work has been done, but the focus must remain on hope.
“The inspiration for the song is that life always has its challenges but people experiencing mental illness, regardless of what type, often they find it extremely difficult to face the challenges of every day life that most people take for granted.”
During one his brighter days a number of years ago, coupled with an inspirational and creative moment, he quickly put pen to paper and created a song.
“I captured a moment of life’s struggles and as the bridge of the song says, with the sowing of the seeds it gives one hope for the future that things are gonna get better. Thankfully, as the years passed, I found my own hope and I just wanted to spread the message that yes! Things will always get better.”
For more visit raylake.ca. A portion of the proceeds go to CMHA NL