SU pres talks about personal battles with mental illness
Mark Henick stands above the crowd, his shoes left on the ground. He steadies his arms against a steel barrier, describing with closed eyes how he can still feel the cold metal. The moment becomes real to the hushed audience. Henick is acting out a moment that is stark in his memory, of being 14 and ready to end his life. That night Henick fell, but someone reached out and caught him.
Last week, in a less dramatic setting but in the same fashion, Henick told his story to a classroom full of people at St. Thomas.
“I always get very emotional because I can see everything, I can feel it, I can smell it. I have a very vivid memory of all these experiences,” he said.
Diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and depression in middle school, Henick spent his formative years feeling guilt and shame.
Being told his illness was a weakness he attempted to end his life on several occasions, more than he can count.
Failing to end it increased the anxiety to go on. He just could not get it right.
“Arguably the stigma around illness is far worse than the illness itself,” said Henick.
An ugliness, or a darkness as Henick refers to it, that you cover with your blankets and try to sleep off until the afternoon.
Henick first reached out of his darkness in grade 11 when he tried to connect with fellow students and be open with his depression.
The idea was rejected by his school in Cape Breton.
It was one thing to have live with depression another thing to talk about it.
Henick wrote a letter to his local newspaper who descended on the rejection.
Soon after, Henick got his wish and was able to speak with his peers about mental illness.
“It was such an incredible story because it was something that everybody was experiencing but we kind of had to keep quiet. That nobody could talk about, especially a kid in high school,” said Henick.
Henick’s role in the mental health community has grown since then.
He is both the youngest member and the President on the board of directors for the NB division of the Canadian Mental Health associate.
His talk this year is his fourth on STU campus and soon he will be looking at the UNB/STU Guidance Services to suggest possible improvements.
“Mental health services on pretty much any campus, but this one included, are lacking at best,” says Henick. “The counseling services do the best that they can and they do a good job, with the very limited resources they have.”
During his speech Henick jumps of the table and lands on his feet. He slips on leather shoes, adjusts his dress vest, the image of a successful young man who has it together.
Henick will always deal with his own depression.
Only months ago he contemplated suicide again.
But he continues to hit it with everything he’s got.
A man whose brother suffers from mental illness, and is looking for advice, and a girl who bursts into tears as she thanks Mark for talking, stay behind to talk.
Henick gives his time to each, speaking quietly so he can listen as they share their stories.