Advocate to Share Story of Mental Illness and Suicide at #MHC2016

At just 28 years old, Mark Henick’s story has already lived a lifetime.

As a young person struggling with depression, Henick turned to an overpass at the height of his mental illness ready to jump. As he left his feet, a stranger’s arms suddenly wrapped around his chest and brought him back to safety. The stranger then assured a 15-year-old Henick there was help available.

Henick did get help. He learned to manage his mental illness and has since devoted his life to providing support to others who are struggling as he did.

He went on to earn an undergraduate degree in psychology and philosophy, with a graduate degree in child development and, at 22, served as the youngest president of a provincial Canadian Mental Health Association division in history. He is also the youngest member of the board of directors for the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Henick, a native of Sydney, Nova Scotia who now resides in Toronto, will be a featured speaker during Ontario Shores’ 5th annual Mental Health Conference March 1-2, 2016.  The two-day event will focus on new research in mental health and explore issues in mental health care quality and improvement initiatives.   

“My goal is always to remind people of their own humanity,” said Henick in a recent interview about his upcoming appearance at Ontario Shores. “Sometimes we lose sight of how vulnerable we all are.”

Henick has played a role in the significant shift of society’s view of mental health. Today there are government and big business initiatives supporting the cause of mental health and widespread media coverage recognizing it as an issue of great significance.

However, it hasn’t always been that way. Henick recalled being silenced as a young person ready to share his story with schoolmates as an example of how far the fight against stigma and public education of mental illness has come.

However, Henick believes the work in providing adequate opportunities for those struggling with mental illness in a stigma-free world has just begun.

“As a society we have made real progress, but we are only 10 to 15 years into this,” he noted. “We are talking about a generational shift. We are not there yet.”

However, from day to day Henick said he can see the difference he and other mental health advocates are making.

“People who are struggling or have a personal experience with mental illness want to talk about it,” he said. “I see it all of the time. Whether it is through a question at the end of my presentation or someone coming up to me afterward in private, I see a real hunger in people to share their experiences.”

Henick is schedule to speak at Ontario Shores’ 5th Annual Mental Health Conference on Wednesday, March 2. To register for the event visit www.ontarioshores.ca/research.