Friday, August 15, 2014

Time to talk about mental health

I am coming out of the closet.
While I am not gay, I have been hiding something from many people for many years: I have clinical depression.
At its best, I carry on like anyone else, enjoying life as it happens.
But at its worst I am consumed by blackness. Dark, dangerous thoughts permeate my mind – thoughts of self harm, thoughts of suicide.
The death of actor Robin Williams, who had battled depression and addiction issues for  years, has people talking about mental health issues, which is good because anything that is brought to the light can not remain hidden in the shadows.
I always said I would be open and talk about my own struggles with depression, but I must admit I have been selective in who I make this revelation too.
Some of my closest friends know, people at my church know, as does my family, but unless I want you to know, you most likely will have no idea.
I have become an expert at faking it. Even when I am recoiling in pain on the inside, I am witty and a jokester on the outside.
I can erect a facade few people can see through. There are people I have worked with for almost 20 years and I suspect they have no idea the internal struggles I wrestle with.
I have a family history of depression and I decided at a young age if I had it, I was going to admit it and do everything I could to fight it. Medication, counselling and prayer are all major weapons in the war against my inner demons.
But often those demons make a charge, they attack with an unrelenting and merciless assault. It is in those times when life is the hardest and most dangerous.
Dangerous to myself because the pain is so great, the isolation from the outside world so complete, I feel utterly alone and do not know how I will get through the next minute of the day.
The incredible sadness depression generates can be overwhelming and incapacitating. There has been more than one day when I have sat at this very keyboard and wondered how I was going to survive the next 60 seconds of my life.
I am on medication, I am in counselling and I have an amazing wife who is always ready to fight the darkness with me.
I have a God who will never abandon me, but still there are times when the pain is so great I want it to end by any means possible.
I have found the more I fight the depression, the shorter those dark times are. They still happen, but their duration is much less.
Through my years of struggle, I have learned many things about depression. The first and most important thing anyone can do if they have depression is to admit it and to seek help.
You have two choices when it comes to mental health issues: fight it, or lose to it. There are no other alternatives. If you ignore it, it will consume you.
The brain is just another organ in the body and occasionally organs malfunction. If you have heart problems you would not hesitate to see a doctor. The heart and brain are the same thing – organs that perform a specific job and when they are not doing the job properly, doctors can help.
The first step is to see your family doctor for an assessment. You must be completely honest or the results will be skewed.
You are not weak, you are not inferior and you are not crazy. You simply have a malfunctioning organ that needs a little help.
Depression is a nasty, brutish entity that wants nothing more than to destroy you. But it is a self-determined journey. Only you can admit you need help. And once you admit it, there is lots of help available.
And remember no matter how dark things look, or how isolated you feel you are not alone. Others walk the same path, it may not always be an easy path, but you, we, can do it.
For more information on mental health programs in this area, go to, or

Copywrite 2014 Darren Handschuh

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