By Sarah Liverance

In 1986, Luke Sklar founded Sklar Wilton & Associates. Over 29 healthy years, his success led to the addition of four partners, thirty-five associates, and a thriving business helping some of the most iconic brands in North America with their growth strategies.

Unfortunately, in 2015, Luke became ill with severe depression. He struggled valiantly for three years, working with some of the best medical minds and every possible treatment protocol in the US and in Canada. But nothing worked. Luke died by suicide in May, 2018.

I wish I’d been better educated about depression. That I knew more about the signs. If I’d known more, could I have helped sooner, could I have done anything to lessen the severity?

Most of us aren’t health professionals and we can’t diagnose or treat illnesses. But we spend a lot of time with our colleagues, often more than we spend with our spouses, parents, or children. This means we are in a unique position to observe changes in behaviour and performance, or observe signs that might be a tip off. We need to do a better job of noticing when someone is struggling and knowing how to help. It’s our responsibility as caring colleagues and citizens to be better educated and know what to look for and how to help. If more workplaces were better equipped to help people struggling with their health, Canada would be a better place.

With that, we realized we could turn a tragic situation into something positive.

We are very happy to introduce #Headway.

Headway is a new movement inspired by Luke. A Canada-wide movement to promote healthy minds at work. Kicking off with our main event on May 13, 2019, Headway embodies Luke’s values and everything we love about him – his approachability, his energetic desire for taking action, and his unique sense of humour.

Approachable. Luke was a heavy hitter. An important man who’d accomplished a lot, who’d earned his spot in the American Marketing Association’s marketing hall of legends. But those accolades mattered little to him. Anywhere he went, to a restaurant, airport, or corporate office, he would talk to anyone and get to know them. He was genuinely interested in everyone and their story. And he’d remember their story. The next time he met that person, he’d greet them by name, and ask about their children or their hobbies. Everyone was important to him. The Headway kick-off event will be the same – no stuffy formalities, just people getting to know other people who genuinely care about promoting good mental health in the workplace.

Energetic desire for action. Luke was always known for taking action in an energetic way, sometimes too energetic, particularly when his exuberance led to him running excitedly around the room with arms flailing leading to spilled drinks, broken glasses, and giant laughs. Similarly, the Headway event is focused on taking action. The event will feature experts who’ve already taken action for mental health including Michael Landsberg from The Sports Network and #SickNotWeak,  Paula Allen from Morneau Shepell, John Carinci from RBC Insurance, Mike Serbinis from, Laurie McCann from the Toronto Police Service, Dr. Bill Howatt from The Conference Board of Canada, and Craig Kramer from Johnson & Johnson. Invitees include C-Suite decision makers, mental health experts, and future leaders who can affect real change at their companies. This event isn’t simply to talk about action. It’s to pledge specific, tangible actions that will be followed through.

Sense of humour. Luke was always ready for a joke and eager to participate in some light-hearted troublemaking. Things were no different during the early stages of his illness as he poked fun at himself and his illness. That’s why the Headway kick-off event isn’t beginning with a long, serious keynote and heavy messaging. Though depression is incredibly serious, it’s not too serious to take a lighter approach to it. We are pleased that comedians and mental health advocates Colin Mochrie and Jessica Holmes, Author of “Depression The Comedy,” are participating. Further, Chantal Kreviazuk, renowned singer/songwriter and producer of a documentary about mental health will perform.

Though Headway kicks-off with an inspiring event in a fantastic theatre on May 13, it is not a one-night event. Rather, Headway is a long-term movement to support healthy minds at work. If the executive team at your company is ready to make a Headway pledge for healthy minds at work or would simply like to learn more about how to get started, please get in touch with us. Participation is by invitation only and seats are limited.

The kick-off Headway event is produced by Sklar Wilton & Associates in collaboration with The Sklar Family, SickNotWeak, Mandell Entertainment Group, Riddoch Communications, and PHANTA.

We are grateful to numerous corporate sponsors including Molson Coors, Dig Insights, Morneau Shepell, Mars CanadaSobeys Inc.Canopy Growth, our travel partners The Four Seasons and WestJet, and other anonymous donors.