A SUICIDE AND MENTAL ILLNESS documentary was featured at the Baker College Welcome Center on Wednesday, Oct. 16. Jeff Olson, whose son committed suicide in 2012, presented the documentary to a large audience of mostly younger people.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
“Depression is a medical illness of the brain,” shared Jeff Olson to a crowd prior to the free showing of a documentary about his son’s struggle with depression and subsequent suicide. The documentary, titled “Do It For Daniel,” was presented in two showings at the Baker College Welcome Center on Wednesday, Oct. 16 as a collaborative effort between Baker College and Shiawassee Health & Wellness. The event was sponsored by the Shiawassee Suicide Prevention Coalition.
Olson’s son, Daniel, was just 19-years-old when he took his life by suicide after a lengthy struggle with depression and anxiety that likely started when he was in 6th-grade. From the outside, Daniel appeared to have it all. He was a well-liked all-state athlete from Ishpeming High School, near Marquette. He was an overachieving kid who loved his family and had a seemingly bright future. On July 19, 2012, Daniel ended his life. Since that time, it has become his father’s mission to “create an understanding about mental illness.” He is doing so by presenting the documentary to schools and talking openly about his son and mental illness.
“One in four people will suffer from a mental illness within their lifetime,” he stated, further explaining that it is critical to recognize mental illness as a sickness of the brain and treat it the same as any other medical illness. Olson was a long-time teacher and coach. He recently retired. He said that all of his experience in teaching and coaching did not help him to recognize his son’s problems early enough. After an attempted suicide, Olson and his wife made the decision to “absolutely not” tell people about Daniel’s illness, fearing the stigma it might cause their child. After he was officially diagnosed with the disease of depression during his junior year, Daniel struggled for another three years, even with his family’s love and support – spending time in hospital psych wards when necessary. Olson references psych wards as “the brain unit,” a term he says is far more appropriate for a sick brain.
The documentary was created to educate people about the impact of depression, anxiety and mental illness. Ninety percent of suicides are from people who suffer from mental illness. “It’s very, very treatable,” shared Olson, talking about depression. “There is always hope. You are not alone and we want everyone to understand that.”
“Do It For Daniel” is a bit over an hour long and narrated by Daniel’s sister, Jaime Olson. The film was produced by Kammi Young-Berens and Michael Berens. There is a “Do It For Daniel” social media page and a website at www.doitfordaniel.com, though that is currently being updated. People interested in emailing Jeff Olson can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect by messaging the Facebook page.
Shiawassee Health & Wellness is located at 1555 Industrial Dr., Owosso and can be reached at (989) 723-6791 or (800) 622-4514. The 24-hour national crisis hotline is (800) 273-TALK(8255). If a person is feeling suicidal or is aware of someone who might be, it is important to keep track of these phone numbers. Other ways to find help are by visiting a family doctor, friend, family member, counselor, religious leader or teacher.