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Walk To Washington: Raising Awareness about Major Depression

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. was Director of Mental Help Net from 1999 to 2011. Dr. Dombeck received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 1995 ...Read More

A few days ago a fellow by the name of Stephen Curran called me, requesting the assistance of Mental Help Net in raising public awareness for his Walk To Washington, an event designed to raise awareness about mental health issues, and the need people have for increased access to effective mental health treatment.  

The Walk To Washington is a vehicle through which Mr. Curran hopes to bring his more localized Walk For Depression event (now in its third year in the St. Louis, MO area) to a national forum.  The idea is to help raise funds for treatment of serious mental illnesses (and public awareness of the need for such fundraising and the seriousness of these conditions) by having people commit to walking the 835 miles between St. Louis and Washington, D.C. over a period of 50 days.  It is scheduled to occur on August 14th, 2010, late this coming Summer. 

Yes, this is an obvious public relations exercise, but it is a heart-felt one; a grass-roots one, which makes it excellent.  In this country where profits are king and people who are ill are expected to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps or die trying, the treatment of serious and persistant mental illness has historically been relegated to “bastard step-child who sleeps out in the shed with rags for a blanket and he ought to be grateful” status.  Even with health care reform on our doorstep and healthcare parity supposedly under our belts, it will take events like this one to change that bastard status, so we need to support them. 

I had invited Steve to write something that I’d publish to help advance his goals of spreading the word, and yesterday he did that.  I was going to edit what he sent but then realized that I’d only distort his message.  So below, in undedited form, please find Steve’s message.  And please do check out his Walk To Washington website and do what you can do support his most worthy goal. 


Dr. Dombeck-

It was a pleasure speaking with you on the phone earlier this week and thanks for giving me time to tell you about the Walk To Washington.

I want to share with you a little about myself and what we are doing. I wrote the following for a friend who has an organization that focuses on teen suicide and prevention, Chad’s Coalition, and they posted my story and others on their website. My story of Depression:

In 2005 my life became so overwhelming that I tried to kill myself.

I had just turned 50 and was having problems in my marriage. I had quit my job, my finances were a mess and I was estranged from my family. My life had become extremely stressful and all of these issues became a “perfect storm”. My inability to cope with what was going on in my life led me to believe that I had only one way to solve my problems.

I had isolated myself and refused to share my true feelings and thoughts of suicide with my wife, family and friends. Those close to me knew something was wrong, that I was depressed, but they had no idea of the pain and anguish I was going through, nor the lengths I would go to stop the pain.

I was so depressed and even checked into St. John’s twice, but that was not enough. The depression and darkness were too much. I felt that taking my own life was the only solution. I developed a plan and about a week later checked into a hotel and took a lethal dose of Valium.

I survived the overdose through the intervention of a Higher Power. There is no other explanation. I have no doubt anymore that there is a reason and a purpose for our existence.

I do not know the correct title: God, Divine Spirit, or Higher Power. Whatever the term, I am alive because of something much greater than myself.

I was alive, but the problems were still there. I was so fragile, but I turned my life over to a dear friend and he led me back. I went back to the doctor and we changed the medications. I was still depressed and lonely and I was very, very scared. I was not able to live my life day by day; I could only live it minute by minute. But I got better.

I wrestle with depression and anxiety every day. Every morning, when I open my eyes, the darkness is there and it is a constant companion. I am now able to manage it better, but it is with me every moment, almost like a second layer of skin. Instead of trying to fight it, I wrestle with it. If one technique doesn’t work I switch to another.

I am living my life today because of my family, friends and my Higher Power. I am a better husband, brother, friend and person because of what I went through. I still have terrible days. I still get depressed and I still get angry. But I am thankful I am alive.

Three years ago I started planning a local walk to raise awareness about mental health and funding for local mental health programs. I modeled our walk after the San Diego Walk For Recovery because of the success they have had. What makes our walk unique is that the walkers determine where the funds they raised through sponsorships go. Our first walk in 2008 raised about $2,500 for 4 local mental health programs. Our 2009 walk raised over $30,000 for 29 area agencies.

We have now grown to a national organization and our mission is to have communities across the country put on a Walk For Depression. We are holding a one-time Walk To Washington to raise awareness about the disease of Depression and to encourage cities along our walk route to host a Walk For Depression. Also, we have set a goal to have 1,000,000 people sign our petition for better treatment, access and research for Depression. We believe this will be the largest event ever held for Depression Awareness.

I hope you will help us get the word out about the Walk To Washington and I invite you to go to our website, www.walktowashington.org, to learn more. Please check out our video about the Walk to Washington at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSPbIUpbbrg. A local advertising agency donated their services to produce our webpage and video.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Steve

Stephen R. Curran
Director
THE WALK
P.O. Box 220183
Saint Louis, MO 63122
314/550-1945
314/677-3381(fax)

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