New Sask. book project aims to inspire men to speak out about mental health
One man was thinking about ending his life when he saw others talking openly about mental health
Tyson Williams knew he was suffering from something for more than a decade but didn't know what it was.
In his early 30s, he decided to end his life — until he saw an episode of Off The Record where host Michael Landsberg and former NHL player Stephane Richer spoke about their struggles with mental health.
It was the first time he saw men talking openly about their mental health and it was the first time he was able to put a name to what was happening to himself. He was suffering from depression.
"I remember just sitting there watching and listening to [Stephane Richer] and I mean, here's a guy who essentially has lived like my dream," Williams said.
Williams emailed Landsberg that he had been struggling and dealing with suicidal thoughts after the show was finished and then the two started talking back and forth.
Williams said at the time he thought it was too late for him, while Landsberg suggested he talk to someone for help.
"There is an instant feeling of the weight being lifted off in a way, because that was my first time ever telling another human being what I what I was going through," he said.
"I'm here today in a large part because of that conversation."
Williams found himself in crisis a few weeks after talking to Landsberg.
"I don't remember exactly what the trigger was but I just remember I had to make a phone call or I was going to die and I made a phone call to a hotline," he said.
The hotline alerted police who sat down with Williams. Williams went to the mental health unit of a hospital in the Battlefords area of Saskatchewan and met another man who he described as the stereotypical image of a manly man.
There's definitely nothing more powerful than someone's story.- Author Allan Kehler
"I got that feeling of OK, you know, I'm not the only one, I'm not alone in this," he said.
Williams is now part of a new project of men sharing their mental health stories in a book by men for men. He hopes him speaking out will encourage others to talk.
"That's just a massive first step is just letting somebody know what you're going through and then going from there. You know, as cliche as it might sound," Williams said.
"I'll talk every day of the week if that's what it takes," he said.
The book project of Saskatchewan men's mental health stories is being led by Saskatoon author and motivational speaker, Allan Kehler. Kehler hopes to gather stories of mental health issues and overcoming them from men around Saskatchewan.
Kehler says mental illness rates are compatible between men and women but men are less likely to ask for help.
"It's basically going to be a book by men for men and it's going to contain stories of Saskatchewan men who are trying to put a voice to issues of mental illness and addictions," Kehler said.
The book will also challenge ideas of masculinity and provide prevention resources, Kehler said. But the important part is the individuals taking part who have experience with various forms of mental health or addictions.
"There's definitely nothing more powerful than someone's story."
"And I'm asking people to discuss how masculinity may have created barriers in their quest for help, ... what supports they accessed, how they're able to turn their lives around," Kehler said.
He's talked to men in the Saskatoon area but hopes to get more voices provincially, he said.
Kehler has also lost his best friend to suicide. Just last week, Kehler interviewed his friend's father.
Kehler asked the man about what it was like to watch his son struggle, lose him and get through it.
"The stories aren't limited. It's not only the people who have personally struggled with various issues but also the people who have had loved ones going through them."
Proceeds from his book will go to Project Voice, a project from the group Break the Barriers working to eliminate stigma and discrimination around mental health and addictions, he said.
"It's also just giving people the freedom to remove some of that darkness," he said.
"As soon as people put a voice to the darkness, it not only allows them to be free from those emotions," he said, "[It] allows other people to do the same."
If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts or having a mental health crisis, there is help out there.
For an emergency or crisis situation, call 911.
You can also contact the Saskatchewan suicide prevention line toll-free, 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566, the Regina Mobile Crisis Services suicide line at 306-525-5333 or Saskatoon mobile crisis line at 306-933-6200.
With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition