BELLEVILLE – Michael Teasdale never thought about killing himself.

But he did feel like curling up in a corner and letting life roll over him until it flattened him out of existence.

The Stirling man and Loyalist College student was just one of the walkers in Wednesday’s Defeat Depression at the school, aimed at raising awareness of mental illness.

Teasdale said his first battle with depression occurred in adolescence. He recovered and another minor bout hit him around 19.

His biggest battle came three years ago, at age 45. He said his teenage sons “got into some trouble” and Teasdale felt partially responsible for their behaviour. But he couldn’t help them, which frustrated him and made him feel useless.

“Stresses build up in all our lives. We deal with them by taking a break, hanging with friends or doing something we enjoy to give our brains a rest,” he said. “I was too tied up in trying to deal with my family that I never made time for friends. I isolated myself.”

He lost interest in all his former past times and thinking about work and home took the pleasure away from biking, playing games, writing or reading.

Within a few weeks of being handed an impossible work project, he had a breakdown.

“I wanted everything to stop. I wanted everything to end. I didn’t think about killing myself, only about 15 per cent of depression sufferers do, but I wanted something to happen, an accident, a killer meteor, an alien invasion, something that would take me out of the equation so I could stop feeling so bad.”

He ultimately sought help. He took prescribed medication, worked with a therapist and then a psychiatrist.

He said, according to Mood Disorders Society of Canada, roughly five in every 100 Canadians are depressed right now. Two-thirds of them are women.

He hopes people suffering from depression will seek help – he fears others like him will suffer in silence.

“We have to change that…Tell everyone you know, and maybe the word will reach someone who needs to hear it. See a doctor. Hope exists.”

Canadian Mental Health Association executive director Sandie Sidsworth spoke about the message of hope and recovery.

“We have to identify that it’s okay and safe to build our supports. We need to frame mental illness in a context of mental wellness,” she said. “The recovery period is months, sometimes years, but there is recovery.”

She said one of the biggest fears of those suffering from a mental illness is the loss of time.

“If you think of someone in their first year of university, dealing with a major mental illness, it takes two to three years to recover. When they get back to a place of wellness, they look and see that their friends have moved forward, moved on to their lives in post-graduate work, marriage, even raising a family.”

The event was spearheaded by the college’s mind and wellness practitioner, Sarah Michelle Ogden.

“Mental illnesses such as depression are very common. It’s one of the most common mental health concerns but it’s not often talked about and there’s a stigma around it so that’s why it’s important to have events like this,” she said.

By Emily Mountney-Lessard, The Intelligencer

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