Catherine MacLellan hopes to make depression 'kind of normal'

It was a simple text message, but it hit P.E.I. singer-songwriter Catherine MacLellan hard.

Singer-songwriter open about battle she and famous late father Gene have had with mental illness

Singer-songwriter Catherine MacLellan

7 years ago
Duration 4:26
Catherine MacLellan discusses her ECMA nominations and the marking of the 20th anniversary of her famous father Gene's death.

It was a simple text message, but it hit P.E.I. singer-songwriter Catherine MacLellan hard.

"Thinking of you today."

Four words that pushed MacLellan to speak openly for the first time about her own battle with depression.

The text came on the morning of the 20th anniversary of her father Gene's suicide.

He didn't die of suicide, he died of mental illness.- Catherine MacLellan on her father Gene

His own musical legacy is significant, from writing Snowbird to Put Your Hand in the Hand to his Juno Award for best songwriter in 1971.

He hanged himself on Jan. 19, 1995 in Summerside, P.E.I.

On the anniversary of that tragic day, instead of penning a song, MacLellan took to her blog, writing about her own struggle with depression, the need to take the conversation public and to make sure people know there's help available. 

"He didn't die of suicide, he died of mental illness. And that is something that still hurts. It's not an anger issue anymore. I'm not angry at him, I just hope that he's at peace."

MacLellan says people almost expect artists have some sort of mental illness.

"I feel as an artist I'm allowed to be crazy, and I'm allowed to be depressed or a little manic."

Catherine MacLellan's latest album was released in August and is called The Raven's Sun. (Rob Waymen)
She says, while many accept those conditions as part of the job when creating art, it's not the same when you're in a different line of work.

"You're not allowed to have those ups and downs. You're supposed to be straight ahead all the time, and I think that's really unrealistic."

MacLellan says her journey has been a long one; in fact, the full 20 years since her father took his life.

Over the last few years, MacLellan has talked to many professionals who have helped her. 

"One of the things that I realized that I hadn't dealt with was allowing myself not to grieve. Not for him but for myself and the loss of those innocent years that got clouded in grief."

As for overwhelming reaction the blog post? "It's huge and it means so much to me. Not only do we get to talk about it, and make it kind of normal, because it is. It is a normal thing that people go through," said MacLellan.

"It also made me feel not alone in it and I think that's really important."         


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