Husband-wife duo Once a Tree is bringing mental health awareness to the forefront with their new single “Breakdown.”
Hayden and Jayli Wolf — both raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses in different areas of British Columbia — connected on Facebook while both trying to leave their religion and bonded over their mutual love for music.
“I actually got him to come and do a music video for me,” Jayli tells PEOPLE about their first meet-up. “The first day we met, we fell in love. We got married three months later.”
Both Hayden and Jayli have battled depression in the past, and “Breakdown” was inspired after Hayden had a night during which he “didn’t feel like I could keep going,” he says. The song is dedicated to Hayden’s younger brother, Avery, who died from suicide earlier this year.
“Jayli and I have both suffered from depression and mental health issues ourselves, and I think it’s just a topic that we really want to shed light on and raise awareness about to continue that conversation,” Hayden says about the importance of opening up about mental health.
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“I had been struggling with substance abuse and depression, and in the video there’s actually a scene where it looks like I’m about to jump off a cliff and the whole video is actually based off that night,” he continues. “Jayli herself almost fell trying to save me.”
One night many moons ago, I found Hayden standing at the edge of a cliff. I almost fell trying to stop him. There was a group of us there that night. We held Hayden down until the police showed up. This song and visual is inspired by that night. A night that Hayden thought he couldn't keep going. Sitting here today, I am so grateful that he was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That he was able to get clean of substance abuse, and get help for his depression. But as many of my friends know, we lost someone dear to us because of suicide this year. Someone who was not able to get the help that they so desperately needed. In light of everything outlined above, we partnered with the KGH Foundation to help raise funds to develop facilities in Canada that will aid youth struggling with mental illness. I will be sharing more on this soon. I am looking forward to keeping this conversation going. Video link in bio. #kghfoundation #mentalhealth #suicideawareness
“Breakdown” is the first single off their upcoming album, Phoenix, which is about “rising up out of the ashes and conquering the past and rebirth,” says Hayden.
“[It’s about] coming out of depression,” Jayli adds. “There’s a lot about love on the new album, but there’s also a lot about just coming out of the darkness and finding that light at the end of the tunnel.”
The pair is also working with the Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) Foundation’s Not Alone Campaign in British Columbia to help raise funds to build facilities across Canada to help youths suffering from mental illness.
“We just knew so many people who were on waiting lists who are suicidal, and they can’t get the help that they need and get into these facilities,” says Jayli. “If we had these six months ago, then maybe Avery would have gotten the help he needed.”
I took this picture 3 years ago. Avery was 20 years old, and I think of how much I looked up to him. He was so confident. I remember how he made us all laugh on this day. Our stomachs hurt from his jokes. Now our hearts break with missing him. We didn't know how much he was hurting. We never know what people are going through. I'm realizing more than ever how important it is to show love to every single person I meet. I'm saying "I love you" more often and meaning it so much more. #dontgiveup
All in all, Once a Tree wishes to convey the message of hope to those around them.
“Life can become so dark, but there’s always a light and you just have to find it,” says Hayden. “Any situation that you think is a terrible one can actually turn around and become a blessing depending on how you look at it.”