Mental health is still a difficult discussion. For those that suffer from mental health issues, there is still a stigma attached.
– Don Parman, Manager of Performing Arts Programs and Services, Actsafe Safety Association
My story. I don’t tell it to gain sympathy. I don’t tell it to make a political statement. I tell it to help open the door a little bit further for the next generation of live event technicians.
Most people have no idea that I have struggled with anxiety and depression since my early teens. In my case, it manifested itself as violent physical outbreaks. Thankfully, it was never directed at people but inanimate objects. Hitting, throwing, and breaking was the pressure release valve for anxiety and anger. Throughout my elementary years and into high school I struggled to keep friends and relationships because of my erratic reactions to often simple issues. There was little to no help within the school system in the ‘80s and ‘90s. What little was available was so limited that it never had any effect on my situation.
Skip to March 2, 1996, and while I was coming home from the wedding reception of a good friend, I was assaulted. Blindsided as I exited a 7-Eleven, they knocked me out by kicking my head into the curb outside the front doors as my girlfriend (now spouse of 23 years) watched helplessly from the taxi. No MRI. No follow-up. No counselling.
I was released the next day but the effects would linger for years.
Forward to 2003. Now married with two amazing kids, we realized it was time for help. While my colleagues rarely saw the outbursts, they continued at home. This had to change. Stacey and I embarked on a mission to get me help. This is where things get really interesting. Because I wasn’t a threat to myself, my family, or the public, I was thrown into a system that has no place for me.
Since then I have been on waitlists for over three years for subsidized treatment, only to get one session a month for a maximum of a year. We added to our mortgage to afford paid professional help. That help took six to eight months to find, only to have them decline my appointments because of my insane schedule.
When I finally had benefits through my employers, I was able to utilise the Employee Assistance Program’s counselling services, but again, they were designed for people that were a threat to themselves or others. I attended six sessions and was then referred to a waitlist for further treatment. I’m still looking for help today.
It’s not all bad news. Out of all these experiences, I have found tools that do help. My family being number one, but the general theatre community has been a major resource for me and I, in turn, hope that I can be a resource to the community.
The irony in all of this is that I write this during a pandemic lockdown which has given me a rare opportunity to truly work on my own mental wellness. I do not think I could have written this piece six weeks ago. Exercise, reduced work hours, and more time with my support system (Stacey, Kaleb, and Shelby) has me in a better mind space than I have been in in years which is interesting!
This article was written for our quarterly newsletter, Safety Scene. You can find a link to the full edition below.