We continue our look at mental health in rural Montana with another personal story about one family's dedication to helping their child manage and overcome depression.

Voice of Karl Christians, Lewis & Clark County Farm Bureau President

“While we have not had an immediate family member commit suicide, we have had members suffer from depression.  We have had friends take their lives, but they were younger (less than 26 years old at the time).  I grew up in a family that didn't believe depression was real and always heard the comments, "They just need a kick in the butt" or "Depression? That's crap!"    

My wife Rae Lynn, who is a nurse, has family members who have struggled with depression and treated it clinically—getting professional help and controlling it with medication.  Rae Lynn understood what depression looked like, while I was clueless, and even carried on some of my family thoughts.  It wasn't until our son was diagnosed with depression that I realized it was a serious thing.   

With my son, who was in middle school at the time, I can almost pinpoint through pictures when it took hold. He had always been photogenic with a happy smile and bright eyes. When the depression took hold, he had a forced smile and his eyes weren’t bright and shiny. He looked as if he didn’t even want to be in the photo. If you looked at those pictures over a couple of years, you could tell something was going on. It took us a while to figure it out, but once Rae Lynn recognized it as depression, we got him to a youth counselor and got him the medication he needed. 

He denied it for a time. He would take the medication for a while and feel better, then take himself off of it. It took a couple of years for him to accept that he had depression. He’d sometimes call me from school and say he couldn’t make it through the day. I’d pick him up and we’d drive around and talk. We really couldn’t figure out what triggered it, although winters were and still are hard. It’s important that parents make a kid talk if they suspect he/she has depression. Don’t let them sit in the bedroom alone. If you think there is a problem, seek help. Ten years later our son is doing well and has taken himself off the medication, but he’s especially careful in the gloomy months to talk to people and keep busy.

If you’re diagnosed with depression, get help.

Guys say, “I don’t need a shrink to tell me what’s wrong.”  But that’s just not true. I still don’t fully understand depression, but it is a type of chemical imbalance. I’ve seen it and it’s real.  

Lewis & Clark Farm Bureau was approached by Jessica Hegstrom (who is now the Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Officer) about supporting "Man Therapy.” This is a suicide prevention effort that takes a lighter approach to influence people. It lets you know it’s okay to be down and provides humor to deal with it. The L&C Farm Bureau board agreed to wholeheartedly support it and are doing what they can to promote it by putting up posters, supporting the website, Facebooking it and mentioning it whenever they can. It's a program that was developed in another state, but has invited county Farm Bureaus to partake in the program. Learn more at www.mantherapy.org.