Riveting CTV doc on depression strikes chord for this reporter
The honesty of the athletes featured in Michael Landsberg’s documentary Darkness and Hope: Depression, Sports and Me is remarkably compelling.
Former NHLer Stephane Richer (photo), baseball slugger Darryl Strawberry and Olympic great Clara Hughes lay themselves bare in sharing their struggles with the debilitating mental disease in the show airing Wednesday at 7 p.m. on CTV.
I watched it twice in preparation for a front-page story in the Star’s sports section on Wednesday.
I felt like they were telling my story, too, that I could totally relate to them.
Not to the Stanley Cup rings. Or the World Series title. Or the Olympic medals.
But I’ve battled depression for most of my life.
The multi-million dollar campaign Bell is running using Hughes as a spokesperson to spark more discussion on mental health is a very important one.
It’s called “Let’s Talk” and it’s well named because talking about the problem is critical. How many people are out there staying silent about their pain? The answer is way too many.
This is a disease that affects and potentially destroys families.
Depression is insidious.
It makes you feel worthless, that you don’t deserve the compassion of even those closest to you right at the very time when you need their help and compassion more than ever. As Hughes says of her own depression in the documentary: “I felt really afraid and really alone.”
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is help out there. Really good help. People are way more understanding than those in the grips of the disease realize. When depression has hold of you, it feels relentless and that the mental anguish is never going to end. But when you get help, you look back on that time and can’t believe you ever felt that way.
Landsberg, whose depression is also detailed in the documentary, said he believes the willingness of successful athletes to share their stories will help de-stigmatize the disease.
“Depression is going to touch someone in some way,” he said. “You may not get it, but someone you care about will and your ability to be emphathetic to them and to be supportive of them and to be encouraging of them to get the help could ultimately make the difference between happiness and sadness for them and, perhaps, life and death.”
Those who think of Strawberry in terms of all the negative headlines he generated with his off-field troubles will gain a whole new appreciation for him as a person. A lot of his problems stemmed from abuse from his father, who continually told him he would never amount to anything.
“As you lay across that bed and you have no shirt on and he’s beating the living crap out of you, you believe that,” he said in the documentary. “I don’t care who you are. I don’t care how great you become.”
Depression strips away so much from you. But you can fight it and carve out a very meaningful life.
There may not be a better face for a campaign like Bell’s than that of Hughes. She’s shared her strengths with us for so many years in the Olympic arena. Now, she’s sharing her vulnerability.
We should thank all these athletes for doing that. It’s a greater act of courage than any on the playing field.
(There will be a live chat with Michael Landsberg and Randy Starkman @ 1 p.m. Wednesday on thestar.com) Click here to Join the Chat