Thirteen years ago, my family and I went through a short chapter in my life we’ll never forget. So, what does depression, hopelessness and suicide look like in the U.P.? It looks like us.
Good morning! Wow. What response to that story. I’m grateful. To answer some private messages, I amended the article a bit with some updates. I appreciate all your feedback. The U.P. is improving, so am I. andrewmqt.com/depression
Posted by Andrew Lorinser on Friday, December 21, 2018
MARQUETTE, Mich. — In Michigan, the growth in suicide deaths is more rapid than the national average. Death by suicide increased nearly 33% since ’99, to over 13 deaths per 1,000 people in 2016. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the state.
When the late State Representative John Kivela died everyone used a common word to describe it. “Shocking.” He had an uphill legal battle with DUIs, but cultivated a lot of respect in the community. The surface-story said he had great family, a prolific political career, and a blessed life. As incompatible as our personal relationship was, I was devastated. I was not shocked.
When I learnt of the story of Daniel Olson, I mourned and grieved. He was a popular star athlete. He seemingly had everything going for him. For me, “surprised” isn’t the word. His family now hopes to create a new culture around suicide prevention and end a negative stigma. [#ChangeTheStigma | #DoItForDaniel] Vital.
When 11-year-old Tysen Benz hanged himself as the result of a prank, I was heartbroken. He was so young, with a world of potential. I wasn’t stunned. His parents now partner with the State Attorney General and work towards legislation against cyber bullying. [#OKToSay] Justice.
When I heard of Jimmy St. Cyr’s tragic passing, I felt deep sorrow. He was vibrant, social, and came from an amazing supportive family. It fit exactly what I know about depression. His parents now spearhead an initiative in medical screening for young adults, to properly diagnose and treat depression. [#ZeroSuicide]. Important.
The Kivela family now tries to bring awareness to alcoholism and suicide prevention. Powerful.
Without these initiatives, I would not be able to share my story with you.
- Without Do It For Daniel, I wouldn’t have the courage to be open about my past struggles.
- I wouldn’t sympathize with youth like Tysen Benz, understanding vulnerable people are influenced and hurt by their peers.
- Without Jimmy St. Cyr, I would not understand how fortunate I was in receiving proper screening that saved my life when I was his exact age.
- Without John, I would not understand how hidden struggles are, and the importance of always being kind, no matter how volatile political and personal relationships are. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
My depression was the accumulation of a several factors, mostly a broken heart. I can’t even speculate what happened inside the minds of the others. There are likely a myriad of complex factors in all of them. There is no one cause. Broken hearts, relationship combustion, financial woes, susceptibility to diabolical pranks, influence by our peers, societal pressure, bullying, alcoholism, etc. These could be factors in just our five cases. For most, suicide is the result of hopelessness.
None of the stories surprised me, because one in five people suffer from mental illness. Sadly, it’s so common. I’m not sure what the rest of the world thinks it looks like. Whether it’s an emo child cutting, a young girl with mascara running after a breakup, a disabled veteran with PTSD, a housewife, a banker, a politician, a star athlete– Mental illness is a disease. It doesn’t care who you are. Our five stories are exactly what I personally understand about the feeling of hopelessness.
For the U.P., I do see hope. It comes out of the wake of tragedies. It’s what Yoopers do. So long as we’re open about the problem, we get up, we take care of each other, and resolve it. Everything that culminated after these deaths to encourage me to share my story tells me we’re improving. The most fundamental thing upon which we can improve is ending the stigma. So, what does depression look like? At one point in my life, 13 years ago, depression looked like me.
Let’s bust down a stigma right now. I hope my story helps you.
Today, I am happy and healthy, and have long-term stability. Periodically between 2004 and 2006, I was a anything but. I suffered from severe clinical depression. It’s a short chapter in my life my family and I will never forget. In my 20s, I was hospitalized for it, twice. For a decade, instead of being proud of overcoming it, I was ashamed I struggled with it. Since 2007, life has been great, but I denied this chapter existed. I desperately hid my past from everyone, myself included.
How could I have a political career? Would voters trust my current stability? Until recently, I never thought I could be open about my past struggles if I hoped someday people would cast a ballot for me. I kept silent. I fed the stigma.
Forget stigmas. Presidents Madison, Adams, Pierce, Coolidge, and Lincoln had depression. Jefferson, Grant, and Wilson had anxiety. Johnson, and T. Roosevelt had bipolar.
No one knows how these great men despaired. I can detail my experience; uncontrollable sobbing in the middle of the night, medication complications, manic highs, hopeless lows, 3 a.m. car rides to nowhere, night terrors, skipping school, reckless obsession, compulsion, self destruction, pining, desperate unwarranted phone calls.
My illness was torrential. I was not in control. My sister says she remembers it like it was yesterday. It was hard on my family, but they rejected the notion of me apologizing. Depression is the fault of neurons, chemicals, and societal pressures, not individuals. No one is a burden to someone who loves them. From my perspective, it’s all a bit of a haze. Details, though provocative, wouldn’t even help you understand anyone else’s situation anyway. Mental illness and depression is different for everyone. Some disengage. Some turn to drugs. Others drink. Mine never took those turns. It could’ve. Mental illness can be passive. It can be obvious. It can especially be hidden.
I gained control through in- and out-patient therapy, proper medication, and music. I’d turn my passion for music into a media production business and its success contributed to my long-term recovery. Then, I started writing, and found the more I shared, the less I felt alone.
You are not alone. Listen to me. No matter how alone you feel, you’re not. If the stigma disabled me from understanding this, on my two worst nights, the ambulance would have never picked me up. The compassionate police officer would’ve never brought me to the hospital.
I am here because of privilege and access to mental health services that should be universal.
One reason I am here today is because I was surrounded by a family who saw I was struggling, and knew the right treatment. My mother would sit with me for hours in the middle of the night, just listening, as I spewed esoteric questions about the purpose of life. My father regularly consulted with physicians to ensure I was on the right medication. There was tough love, too. To be candid, at the time, I didn’t care or notice. I was suicidal. I felt hopeless. My support system had hope for me. I knew who to call. I was able to cry for help. It could be treated. How fortunate. I am here because of privilege and access to mental health services that should be universal.
Think about that. Because–like for so many–what if my family didn’t talk about it? What if we didn’t have access to treatment? What if we couldn’t afford medication? What if the stigma was so strong we didn’t even acknowledge the depression existed?
I wouldn’t be here.
In all of our efforts, we need to improve access to services for those struggling. Not only can you survive it, but you can live with it and accomplish remarkable things.
I went on to have a rewarding career in media production, marketing, journalism, and PR. Now, where I dropped out in my 20s, I get to exclusively concentrate on education. I found real love, stability, happiness. I redisovered faith in God–including Christian principles–through the evolved study of Christianity, Omnism, then of all places, Islam. I fed my mind, body, and soul. I excersized, slept no more and no less than eight hours, found routine, ate better, and lost 75 pounds. I also hope to go on to do more. I know someday I will have the honor to represent you, in some political capacity. I know it. My 20-year-old-self wouldn’t fathom it.
Life gets better.
It’s not always better. About six years ago, for several months I relapsed back into some destructive obsessive patterns. By this time, I’d have to pick myself up, alone. Because I had the tools and mechanisms embedded in me from my family and treatment in my early 20s, it ensured my fall was short. Early detection, early treatment, and early dialogue can plant seeds for future stability. Today, like you, I have the occasional rough moment, but I have complete long-term control.
Please discuss mental health in your families. Recognize illness, treat it, and we not only save lives like mine, we improve other societal issues, too; problems like alcoholism, addiction, homelessness, etc.
It starts with educational dialogues like Do It For Daniel, which has given me the courage to speak out, tell you my story, and share the contagion of empathy. The Zero Suicide movement in the U.P. will get young adults medically screened, a process from which I was lucky to benefit. Most importantly, talk about mental health. Reach out. Tell those struggling about our stories. Let them know they’re not alone, and life gets better. I am proof these initiatives work.