A Chilliwack man is hoping to shine a light on clinical depression through his motorcycle.
On June 19, Douglas Janzen will be embarking on a motorcycle ride he’s calling Road2Blue from Chilliwack to Inuvik, Canada’s high arctic. He will be alone and unsupported for the entire ride – in the same way people with clinical depression often feel they are.
“Everyone knows someone with depression but nobody wants to talk about it,” said Douglas. “If people started talking openly about depression, those who battle it would be more likely to get proper treatment; the stigma would be reduced.”
Depression and mood disorders affect over one million Canadians, interfering with a person’s ability to work, study, sleep, eat and enjoy once pleasurable activities.
Several high achieving people, including Olympian Clara Hughes, actor Harrison Ford, singer Janet Jackson, and Sir Winston Churchill all successfully battled clinical depression. But not everyone is successful in their battle.
Two college classmates of Janzen’s did not survive depression and died in their 20s.
“Those who don’t know much about clinical depression might flippantly describe a depressed person as being a little blue or unmotivated,” said Janzen on his Road2Blue website. “They don’t realize that depressed people actually have an illness that is beyond their control.”
A few years ago a young woman Janzen knows was also diagnosed with depression in her teens. While this girl had always been somewhat reserved, in just a few months she became reclusive, self-centred, moody, and unpleasant to be around. It wasn’t until her parents noticed scars from self mutilation and heard her talking of suicide, that they realized the changes in her personality were more than just teenage hormones.
With diagnosis, she was put into counseling, underwent cognitive behaviour therapy, and was put on medication. Her family was also educated in the signs of depression.
“The woman and her family are fortunate,” said Janzen. “Many people don’t recognize the signs of depression soon enough.”
Depression can be difficult to detect in teens but experts advise that early diagnosis and aggressive treatment can be the difference between a full, normal, productive life, or no life at all. A family doctor can diagnose clinical depression quickly, but often parents don’t realize their children are struggling.
“When I consider how the knowledge of mental health helped the young woman I know and how the lack of knowledge contributed to the death of my friends, I wanted to help. Clinical depression is an isolating and demoralizing illness. People who are depressed are alone with their unbearable pain and are masters at hiding what they feel and what they are thinking.
“I want people to learn more about the signs of mental illness.”
Janzen believes his solitary journey is representative of a depressed person’s solitary journey.
His route will be going through one of Canada’s more remote areas where it is more common to see wild animals such as wolves and bears than to see another human. He will be isolated and alone in an area where even a minor mishap could have serious consequences.
“I thought that my journey alone through one of the most desolate, isolated and inhospitable areas of North America could serve as a physical representation of a depressive episode,” he said.
Janzen hopes his journey will not only encourage more open conversation about depression, but will also raise funds for the FORCE Society (Families Organized for Recognition and Care Equality) which provides families with an opportunity to speak with other families who understand and may be able to offer support or advice. FORCE also works with professionals and advocates on behalf of mental health.
For more information on FORCE, visit the society’s website at www.forcesociety.com.
For more information on Road2Blue, or to track Janzen’s journey, visit his website at www.road2blue.com.