This afternoon, visionary Luke Sklar is being laid to rest. After more than three years of experiencing severe depression.
I’ve known of Luke for many years as one half of famed Sklar Wilton & Associates but I’ve only personally known him for about a year and a half. In that time, I was his social media guru. He’d come to me for help figuring out all the strange and ever-changing nuances of Twitter and LinkedIn. He wanted to stay in touch with the current news, and he wanted to take advantage of new technologies. He was my regular proof that old dogs (though at 63, he wasn’t old at all) can learn new tricks, should learn new tricks, should be eager to learn new tricks. He had a sweet smile, a goofy grin, and kind words for everyone in the office whether they’d worked with him for thirty years or thirty days.
Luke was my occasional reminder that people who have depression can get better and that there is hope.
My first instinct on hearing the news was to share it with my colleagues and the rest of the industry who knew and loved him well. But I couldn’t. The inevitable question would come about – how did he die. And we all know that you can’t talk about depression. It’s not like cancer or heart disease or stroke. Shhh….. it’s depression. Don’t talk about it. It’s shameful. The most I could do was post a tweet begging people who are contemplating suicide to seek help. (Please, please, please seek help. We want you here, we need you here.)
So in the wake of this horrible news, I am grateful that Luke was not ashamed of his illness. I am grateful that we are allowed to say depression took his life. I am grateful that more people will realize the true insidious nature of this disease, and that mental health is as important as any other type of health. Amazingly brilliant people who’ve built award-winning businesses filled with amazing employees get mental illnesses too.
Clinical depression comes in all forms. For some people, medication helps tremendously but it still doesn’t cure the illness. The day to day sadness and hopelessness continues to be a minute by minute struggle. Hospital stays are frequent and long, and suicide watch is ever present. Their caregivers struggle to encourage them to live, to eat, to stand up, to finish a puzzle meant for a child, to colour a simple drawing for more than two minutes. They might disappear from social gatherings and you wonder whether they got bored of spending time with you. Or if they’ve moved. In reality, you’ll never know they have depression because you aren’t in their extremely tight circle of people who must know. Shame continues to be an undeserved sentiment that lingers around mental illness.
For other people, medication can take away the incessant life-threatening feelings and make presenting oneself to the world possible. Medication can even make other people think a depressed person is in perfect health. Laughing, joking, playing, working, all in seemingly wonderful health. You’d never guess they have depression because they are the life of the party any time you’re around them. You don’t see them after they close the door behind you and enter a world where the down is far more down that you can even imagine. All you see is their funny tweets, their hilarious Facebook posts, their goofy grin. You think you know. You think you can tell. But I guarantee you cannot. They’ve perfected the act so well that even their best friends could never guess. And then you never see them again because depression kills.
Luke was a firm supporter of Sick Not Weak, an organization dedicated to helping people understand that mental illness is an sickness, not a weakness. Their goal is to create a community of people who come to gain strength and stay to give strength, to help both sufferers and the people who care about them, and most of all to get as many people as possible, in a loud, firm, confident voice to share the words “I am SickNotWeak.”
I know a few people in our tight community of market researchers who have been brave enough to share their experiences with depression. I am truly grateful to you for your bravery and willingness to openly share your experiences. You are helping to save lives.
I know other people who have depression but I can’t talk about them. I’m still not allowed. But I can talk about Luke. You can talk about Luke. Please spread the word that mental illness is an illness. That you are sick, not weak.
Welcome to my Facebook page. This morning, I woke up to this photo in my newsfeed. It had 20 comments and 15 likes by the time I saw it. And now, it has 27 likes and 5 more comments. Except for one comment, mine, every single person left a rude, mean, inappropriate comment that they would never say to someone’s face. But hey, it’s fine because everyone else did it and this person will never find out.
Out of no respect for the poster, and only common courtesy to my fellow humans, I have blacked out the names of each person who felt it was perfectly OK to laugh at someone else’s expense. Imagine how furious they would be if they saw personally critical comments of themselves online.
Who is the poster you ask? Well, I only friend three kinds of people on Facebook. My family – it’s not them. Personal friends and past acquaintances – it’s not them. Professional market researchers, marketers, advertisers, and other professional people in my business – yes it’s them.
This particular individual is currently the CEO of a company of more than 500 people (I feel sad for those employees) and the LinkedIn profile claims the poster is client oriented (I feel sad for the clients).
Please, I beg of you. When you see this show up in your newsfeed, comments by people you know and respect, let them know that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable. It won’t stop until someone has the guts to speak up and demand that it stop.
Why are so many people on depression medications? Why do so many people get plastic surgery? Why are so many people anorexic and bulimic? Why do people commit suicide? Why don’t people report being raped? Why are deliberately being mean?
While you’re at it, read this post from a woman who saw it happen to her.
Bullying is easy to see. It’s kids calling each other stupid and ugly. It’s being spit on because you’re fat. But look a little deeper.
It’s laughing at photos and videos like those below. It’s ignoring that there are real people in these pictures who are good and kind people, loved by their families and friends. Bullying is sharing these pics on Facebook or Twitter and then commenting on how hilarious and ugly and stupid the people in them are. This is hate. This is sharing hate. This is making hate enjoyable and acceptable. Ever wonder where eating disorders and depression and many other mental disorders come from? Perhaps look no further than having a little fun with a few funny pics.
Need a New Year’s resolution? Maybe think about sharing pics and videos of people doing great things, helping their neighbours, saving animals, doing good deeds.
Just a thought.
Two children loved to pieces and sharing in the joy and mysteries of Santa.
A wonderfully hilarious actress who brings joy to millions of people.
Those who witnessed harassment said they had seen at least one of the following occur to others online:
- 60% of internet users said they had witnessed someone being called offensive names
- 53% had seen efforts to purposefully embarrass someone
- 25% had seen someone being physically threatened
- 24% witnessed someone being harassed for a sustained period of time
- 19% said they witnessed someone being sexually harassed
- 18% said they had seen someone be stalked
- Are eating disorders linked to PTSD and abuse? How? (traumaanddissociation.wordpress.com)
- Types of Bullying (mjbinvestigations.wordpress.com)
- A Bullying Society (parentingwithallthepieces.typepad.com)
- Stop the Bullying! Please! (marandarussell.com)
When I was in Grade 10, my teacher asked the kids in the class what their favourite music was. For minutes, no one was brave enough to share their answer. When someone finally did, the rest of the class burst into laughter. I suspect that no matter what music they mention, it would have caused great laughter. It clearly wasn’t the music that was the issue.
To some degree, as adults, we still have the same need to fit in and we’re still embarrassed about our hobbies. But your hobbies define you and what’s great about you. So whether you love Dungeons and Dragons, collecting ‘tacky’ tea cups, or re-enacting historic events, or spending days staring at the TV, be proud of it. Let other people laugh. If it makes you happy, it’s got to be good.
- Speak Out With Your Geek Out: D&D of course! from Online Dungeon Master (onlinedm.wordpress.com)
- Model Railways and Railway Hobbies (bigsexymedia.com)
When I was completing courses for a Phd at York University in Toronto, I had to apply to the psychology department for special permission to take the graduate psychology ethics class. Since my focus was experimental research, more specifically data quality of online surveys, and not counseling ill patients, the ethics class wasn’t deemed necessary for me. Now, years later, I recall one story the professor shared of his own life as a counseling psychologist.
A gentleman showed up for counseling one day. He was depressed and, at times, suicidal. He desperately needed someone to help him through a difficult period. The psychologist took his case and they began weekly counseling sessions. Over time, however, the man became unable to pay the psychologist’s bill. (In Canada, psychologists are not always covered by health plans.)
The psychologist knew that this man must continue his treatment or suicide was a clear possibility. He decided to offer his services for free to ensure the safety of this man. Besides, pro bono work is something that every psychologist (and everyone) should do.
But, the man had pride. He did not want to be a charity case. He didn’t want to take advantage of the psychologist’s good nature. He was a responsible person who paid for his services. He did not mooch off people. As a result, he refused to accept free psychological treatment. But refusing treatment was not acceptable to the psychologist. How could he sleep at night knowing it was simply money preventing a man from receiving essential, life saving services.
So between the two of them, they figured out a solution. Every week, the man would buy a cup of coffee for the psychologist. Sure, the coffee only cost a buck and that was nowhere near the price of the counselling sessions. But it was a barter of goods meaning the service wasn’t really free. On the other hand, accepting the coffee could be considered a bribe under the psychologist’s code of ethics. In this case, the psychologist resigned that yes, he was going to break the code of ethics. But, weighing a weekly cup of coffee against one more week of life, his moral code let this transgression pass.
Though a cup of coffee saved this man’s life, it could have cost the psychologist his, for had this transgression been discovered, he could have lost his license.
What would you have done? Save a life or lose your livelihood?
First, I love the Dove Campaign for Beauty. I love that it promotes self-esteem and that it exposes the often misleading ‘beauty’ of people. You can watch as a perfectly normal looking lady is transformed by make-up artists, hair stylists, and graphic designers into an impossible estimation of beauty. For me, beauty has nothing to do with physical appearance but rather with one’s own personal choice to do what is right and be a good person. Based on the image of this lady, I have no idea if she is beautiful. All I see is that she feels it is extremely important to present herself with stylish make-up and hairdos. Thank you Dove.
This is a Pepsi commercial that opens eyes about other cultures, not culture in the way you’re used to, but one that is equally unique. You probably don’t realize that the world is made up of many people forced to fit into your world. Well, here’s an example of how YOU fit into someone else’s world. Make sure you’ve got your volume up.
This Dove commercial also focuses on self-esteem. It shows a bunch of young ladies with a variety of self-esteem issues. Too fat, too ugly, too this or that, none of which matter. Have you every unconsciously contributed to the myth? Over zealously complimented a young lady on her pretty appearance rather than her hard work or kind nature? I know I have. It’s hard not to do. You really have to make a conscious effort.
There’s another Dove commercial that shows a number of naked mature women, posing in discrete natural positions. None are super models, just normal real women. Some folks have had trouble with the nudity and so it is banned in some areas. But, I think it helps to promote the reality that all women are important and beautiful even if they are ‘fat’ or ‘wrinkly’ or not 18 years old. Everyone is beautiful, in their own way.
I also love the Discovery Channel commercial. Sure, it’s an ad for TV but if Steven Hawking contributed, it must be good! The ad actually makes me feel like crying because it reminds me about all the amazingly wonderful things in this world. Mushy enough for you?
We all know companies exist to make money, to pay their employees, to feed those families. Why not do it in a way that makes you go home and feel good about what you’re contributing to. Just like these. 😀