While media coverage on mental health issues can often be negative, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario’s Mark Henick has been busy sharing an inspiring story about mental health with international audiences. Henick, a mental health advocate and manager of CMHA Ontario’s Mental Health Works program, recently connected with a stranger who stopped him from ending his life more than a decade ago.
In 2002, a teenaged Henick was struggling with depression and had tried to end his life several times. One night, he walked to the overpass and climbed over the railing. While he stood there, intending to jump, a stranger came up behind him and started talking.
“He didn’t try to give me the same old quick fixes or remedies that people are sometimes inclined to give,” Henick told the Toronto Star recently.
As they talked, a crowd gathered, and Henick remembers that another man yelled for him to jump. Henick let go of the railing and started to fall. That’s when the stranger reached out and pulled him to safety.
That night was the beginning of Henick’s recovery. He went on to finish high school and university, and now works in the mental health sector and speaks as an advocate. But he never forgot the stranger who pulled him from the edge. This year, as part of the Bell Let’s Talk initiative, Henick reached out on social media to find the person who saved his life.
The search didn’t last long. Two days after he posted the initial call, Henick posted a moving video online where he read the email he received from Mike Richey, the man he remembered from that night on the overpass.
Since then, the two men have exchanged several emails and plan to meet sometime in the future. The experience taught Henick the value in sharing his story, which has now garnered international attention. Along with being featured on CTV National News, the Toronto Star and CBC News, he has been interviewed by People magazine and his story has been featured in the New York Daily News and The Daily Mail in the U.K.
“I felt so alone, so isolated and secluded on that bridge, that the most powerful thing for me was that complete stranger reaching out — and I realized I can be that stranger, too, just by telling my story and just by saying that I’ve been there,” he told the Toronto Star. “That breaks down that isolation for people, and lets them know it’s OK to talk.”
To learn more about Mark Henick’s inspiring journey of recovery, check out his TEDxTalk.