For Derek Hird, the weight of the world rested on his shoulders, for longer than he would like to remember.
The Maple Ridge resident found himself battling with depression, and at times it felt like it was a fight he would not win.
“It’s so difficult to describe what it’s like to live on the brink unless you’ve been there.”
He wouldn’t be alone in that category.
Depression and its some of its possible side effects – most notably addiction – wreak havoc of those it touches.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in Toronto, in any given week, at least 500,000 employed Canadians are unable to work because of mental health problems.
Nearly 4,000 Canadians die by suicide each year, an average of more than 10 a day. It is the second-leading cause of death among youth and young adults, after accidents, according to the centre’s studies. Suicide accounts for about 23 per cent deaths among youth aged 15 to 24.
But Hird did not become a fatality statistic.
He found the courage to seek help.
Now he’s looking to help others.
Hird, along with Elite Canadian Wrestling Championship wrestler and friend Randy Myers, have co-written a short film called The Weirdo Hero.
Loosely based on Myers’s three- decade long battle with depression, the 20-minute film depicts the life of newly crowned professional wresting champ Fabulous Frankie Myers.
For Hird, who has taken on the role of producer, the short film is an attempt to help make people understand what it’s like to live in such a dark place.
“When you have depression, there can be that single moment where it hurts just so much and you want to do anything to make that pain stop.
“A lot of people don’t understand that,” said Hird.
Despite the rise to stardom, the lead character Frankie Myers is mired in a state of depression.
While he strives for professional glory, he finds no relief in his new-found success. The depression that gripped his life before his assent keeps a firm grip on his life after he reaches the pinnacle of success in the ring.
Coupled with the death of his father, mounting money troubles, a hostile work environment, and the struggles of his marriage, the character of Myers spins hopeless out of control and deeper into despair.
But through the despair, Hird has a message of hope. It’s by taking that step and asking for help and trying to wipe away the stigma of shame that’s associated with depression.
“People need to understand, and what I still have trouble learning, it’s OK to go out and ask for help,” he said.
But what gets in the way? Hird echo’s his earlier sentiments that people simply fail to realize just how difficult depression is to overcome.
“Because people that don’t have it, don’t understand it. Get over, move on, big deal. So you had a bad day, have a good one the next day. But with depression, you can’t get over it. You can’t see a sunny day. You just want to crawl up in a ball and sleep for the next 20 years. It’s just a feeling of dread and pain — there’s no desire to move forward.”
He said the suicide of actor Robin Williams in August of 2014 really brought home the lack of understanding of what he and so many others face. The word coward kept popping up in conversations.
“I found myself defending the indefensible. I was defending a man that had committed suicide, although I don’t believe in suicide. The problem is, I understand where his head was at.”
He said he’s hopes The Weirdo Hero can help shed light on this topic. While difficult, he said he feels compelled to try.
“There’s a difference between being sad and being depressed,” he points out.
While depicting a story that can reach a wide audience is one challenge, the other is the logistics of actually making a movie. It takes time and money. Ryan Curtis, who works on the TV show Supernatural, is the director. Countless people have volunteered their time in hopes of having the film ready by June and then off to the festival circuit. But to help cover costs they have launched a crowd funding campaign on IndieGoGo.
“The important part is to get the message out there. Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” said Hird.
Statistics from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
• In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental health or addiction problem
• 70% of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence.
• Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.
• Canadians in the lowest income group are three to four times more likely than those in the highest income group to report poor to fair mental health.
• More than 75 per cent of suicides involve men, but women attempt suicide three to four times more often.
• Just 50 per cent of Canadians would tell friends or co-workers that they have a family member with a mental illness, compared to 72 per cent who would discuss a diagnosis of cancer and 68 per cent who would talk about a family member having diabetes.
• 42 per cent of Canadians are unsure whether they would socialize with a friend who has a mental illness.
• 46 per cent of Canadians think people use the term mental illness as an excuse for bad behaviour, and 27 per cent say they would be fearful of being around someone who suffers from serious mental illness.