By Steve Hubrecht

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An Invermere councillor went public after suffering a mental health crisis last week, costing him his career and giving him a fresh perspective on how the health care system, and society at large, deal with those struggling mentally.

To say the last two weeks were eventful for Gerry Taft would be putting it mildly. Taft is no stranger to being busy — for more than two decades he’s made a name in the Columbia Valley as a local entrepreneur, a municipal politician, a three-term mayor, and lately as a successful real estate agent.

But a week and a half ago, coming off of the annual Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention in the Lower Mainland, something snapped for Taft.

“I’m used to stress and to burnout, but this was different,” said Taft.

He was at the UBCM convention juggling his work, which he explained can sometimes seem overwhelmingly busy, as well as the conference, and had just turned 41. 

“So basically it’s perhaps a mid-life crisis combined with a nervous breakdown . . . everything hit all at once. I can handle a lot, but clearly I took on too much this time and I cracked,” Taft told the Pioneer.

Taft says an incident during UBCM shook him. He went out to an after-party event at an ultra-wealthy club in Vancouver. Later he stopped at a Burger King on Granville Street at 3:30 a.m. that was filled with many homeless people. It was the kind of societal disparity Taft was already well aware of, but for reasons he can’t fully explain it really struck him this particular time.

“I felt much more connection to the people at the Burger King than I did at the club. It was strange. But I just couldn’t shake it,” said Taft. 

But it wasn’t just that incident – the incident was one of several factors along with overwork, and the mid-life crisis that may have contributed to the breakdown, said Taft. On Monday, back in Invermere, Taft was arrested under the Mental Health Act, ending up first in the Invermere hospital and then the Cranbrook hospital.

Taft found the experience unsettling, not just because he was struggling mentally, but because, in his view, there didn’t seem to be much process when it comes to dealing with mental health issues. He was taken to Cranbrook by ambulance with two attendants, and put in a secure section of the Cranbrook hospital with a security guard. There was clearly a concern there, he noted. But in terms of treatment, he spent two minutes getting a CT scan, and 10 minutes talking with a psychologist (who prescribed medication) and, to Taft’s surprise, that was it, he was discharged.

“Mental health is not as simple as you think,” he said. In terms of symptoms, he says he’s having trouble with short-term memory and can’t concentrate on small details (“I’m scattered,” he said), is sometimes delayed in speech, and is generally acting a bit odd.

“I think most people are scared and don’t know how to handle it. I don’t know how to handle it either, but I’m not that crazy,” he said.

Taft is getting himself back on track by taking medication, tapping into community support, and trying some naturalist health approaches. He’s also spending some quality time with his family, doing what he calls “bucket-list type things.” When Taft spoke with the Pioneer on Friday, Sept. 30 he was, for instance, listening to some vinyl records on a record player with his kids. Taft said it may seem odd, but that is just the kind of thing he hasn’t had time for much in the past few years, with his time taken up too much with his career and with local politics.

The incident has not been without repercussions, especially on the professional side.

“I blew up my career,” said Taft, explaining that going public about mental health struggles is not exactly a great way to convince people to buy homes through you. He is in the process of de-licensing as a real estate agent and dissociating from his brokerage, and taking down his many real estate signs around town.

Taft told the Pioneer the experience has made him acutely aware of his privilege, in a first-hand way he hadn’t experienced before. He gave the example of his shoes, which were left behind at the Invermere hospital when he was taken by ambulance to Cranbrook. 

When he was eventually discharged in Cranbrook, he had no shoes to put on his feet. That’s not a problem, Taft explained to the Pioneer; he can easily afford more shoes, and he was able to go back to the Invermere hospital and get his shoes (as well as other belongings he left there). But Taft pointed out that he’s financially secure and well-known in Invermere, and he wondered what it would be like to try and get your shoes (or other belongings) back as one of the homeless people he saw in the Burger King on Granville Street, guessing that it may not be so easy.

“This week has been one of the hardest of my life,” Taft said, adding he’s hopeful he will continue to heal and that it’s a case of taking a step backward in order to move forward.

For people suffering mental health problems, visit