Whitby - February 9, 2012 - February 8, 2012 was “Let’s Talk” day in Canada. “Let’s Talk” was a corporate sponsored event intended to raise awareness to mental illness. Bell media allowed its CTV viewership to witness a gripping, compelling and raw 60-minute documentary entitled, “Darkness and Hope: Depression, Sports and Me”. The show was narrated by broadcaster Michael Landsberg of TSN’s Off The Record.
Landsberg is able to speak first hand on the effects of depression as he continues to live and cope with the illness since childhood. The 60-minute documentary featured famous athletes who also battle depression in their own individual way: Canadian Olympic gold medalist Clara Hughes, former New York Mets’ sweet slugging Darryl Strawberry and former Montreal Canadiens’ sniper, Stephane Richer.
In particular, Richer gave a no-holds-barred, honest, and shocking account of what his battle with depression has been like since he first was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens as an 18-year-old teenager.
“Hockey found Stephane Richer, I never chose hockey,” Richer noted to Landsberg. He went on to admit, ”the media and the people in Montreal, they really hurt me…to be criticized, to be judged, to have so many stories around me - I was gay, on drugs, party all the time…I’m a pretty shy guy, I’m pretty quiet, I just want to be home. I was dying inside.”
Richer, now a 45-year-old, happily married man and father, never enjoyed the limelight. Richer would later reveal in the documentary that he had even attempted suicide at one point in his young life.
Clara Hughes, Darryl Strawberry, Stephane Richer and Michael Landsberg are courageous individuals to willingly speak out about their individual trials and tribulations with this mental illness.
The stigma associated to depression needs to be eradicated immediately. Depression and mental illness in general, affects every one-in-four Canadians (statistic courtesy of Canadian Mental Health Association).
Look around, if not yourself, it is very likely that a family member, friend, co-worker or colleague is battling some type of mental illness.
Last September I carefully wrote a tribute to former NHL funny guy, Wade Belak HERE. I wanted to make sure I did not get sucked into the majority of the opinion that Belak died as a result of too many concussions as a result of his role in the NHL.
Soon after Belak’s disheartening demise, we learned that Belak suffered from depression. Belak kept his demons of depression within and chose to not speak about his daily battle with mental illness. The revelation that Belak was battling depression was a shock to many. Belak masked his battle with depression with his infectious smile and sense of hilarity.
“Darkness and Hope: Depression, Sports and Me” is an inspirational documentary intended to strip away the stigma associated with mental illness. I recommend this documentary to every man, woman and teenager - it will change your life and outlook on this disease.
Michael Landsberg illustrates that there is much hope and good news if Canadians will only agree to talk about it.
“When people see others talking about depression, talking about it without being ashamed, there will be people who go, ‘wow, doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe I will share,”‘ said Landsberg. “There will be other people who have always thought that depression was weakness who will say ‘Well, maybe I was wrong about that.”
Until next time, play every game as if it is your last one…