From Chilliwack, B.C. to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Douglas Janzen will be riding his motorcycle, alone, to raise awareness for one of the least spoken of health afflictions: that of clinical depression.
The trip was an idea of his five years ago that has steadily grown until it was realized last Tuesday and represents two facets: that of the need for more awareness and that of acknowledging the struggles of those with depression, including his daughter.
“This thought struck me as I have been talking with people … so I talked to my daughter and I asked if I could tell folks about this, and she said absolutely,” Janzen said.
He described his daughters case with depression as the “straw that broke the camel’s back” when it came to organizing an awareness campaign like this as he’s had other brushes with the illness. A couple of his friends didn’t survive their cases and died in their early 20s.
“I’ve lost a lot of friends to suicide over the years, and the first one I remember was in Grade 7 when I was in Grade 5,” Janzen said. “That kind of stuff sticks with you.”
And yet, nobody talks about it, a fact driven home as his daughter sought help without a lot of information to go by.
They were fortunate in that they found that help and his daughter was active in her own healing and while she still struggles she is successfully managing her depression.
“We’re very very fortunate, but there’s tons of people who don’t know their kids are going through this,” Janzen said.
The ride to Inuvik symbolizes how one with depression may feel alone, even if in a room full of people.
“When I’m halfway up the Dempster Highway between Dawson City and Inuvik, I’m a long ways away from help should something go wrong … I’m in a potentially dangerous place which is very similar to where a depressed person is mentally,” Janzen said.
“I want to get people talking about depression because part of the stigma is nobody wants to talk about it and if people who are depressed hear other people talking about depression hear others talking about it there is a greater chance they’ll go get help.”
For the past five years he’s been doing presentations, posting on Twitter, anything he could to get the conversation started. If he could help just one person get the help they need, that would make him pretty happy, he said.
Awareness, he stressed, needs to start with youth. Janzen is also supporting the F.O.R.C.E Society for Kids, an organization that creates a network of support for families with members who have faced or may be facing a mental health difficulty.
“Mental health is important … we know as much about mental health today as we knew about cancer 50 years ago,” Janzen said. “This is part of creating that awareness that if you have depression you can still live a very productive life … it’s not the death sentence that it has been, especially if we can get people talking about it.”
F.O.R.C.E (Families Organized for Recognition and Care Equality) accepts donations on their website, www.forcesociety.com. For more on Janzen’s story and trip, check out his website at road2blue.com.