Sharing stories of hope: Jerry Alexandre

Depression will affect one in eight Canadians at some point in their lives. For those suffering from the illness, the world can feel like a very dark and lonely place. But depression is treatable, and help is only a phone call away.
Operation Lifesaver’s (OL’s) new Today is Better campaign is a way to get that message out to Canadians who are struggling with their mental health. The suicide-prevention public-awareness campaign consists of 11 poignant and hopeful videos (six English and five French) featuring the personal stories of Canadians who’ve experienced suicidal thoughts, but found help. Jerry Alexandre is one of those Canadians. The Montreal man has suffered with depression for much of his life. But he reached out, and that made all the difference.Here’s part of his story:
When did you first realize that you suffered from depression?
I was 15 years old and my sister and I were living with our stepmother. Things were not going well. I felt that I was alone. I needed help, but I had nowhere to go to, and no one to appeal to for help. So that's when my sister and I decided to put an end to our lives and we tried to take our lives together. We felt it was the only solution because we felt alone. We had no one to talk to. Nowhere to go. Nobody wanted to listen to us. 
How did you feel about your life at that time? 
It was really a desperate time. We lived in a world that was not structured and there was no parental leadership. It was like a pathway with no direction. Like a crossroad and when you reached the intersection, it was not easy to choose where to go and how to live life. And so, depression became a part of my life for a very, very long time. It was a time of hopelessness and that's what really made it so difficult to endure for such a long time. 
What do you know now, that you wish you knew then?
Obstacles are there not to destroy us but to rebuild us...If we simply strive to feel stronger, there are moments of empowerment. And we have to embrace them because the wisdom and the courage that I have today—and in the way that I face these dilemmas—is very much different than when I was 15 years old.
Looking back now, how important was reaching out and getting help? 
It's priceless. Because depression is a prison, a mental prison, without any door. It's a bubble that you find yourself in and you have to find the key. So, it's really important to seek help, when you are able to surrender yourself to the right people. Unfortunately, I did not have the means to see a professional, and as a result, I suffered much longer. For me, it was through creating a different environment where I met people and I learned how to surround myself with people with the ability to listen. Because speaking helps you to come out of that prison in your mind. Once I was able to find people who could listen, that made the whole difference because their listening helped me to rediscover myself. 
If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, a trained responder is ready to listen. Call 1-833-456-4566 (Canada) or 1-866-APPELLE (Quebec),anytime day or night. And to hear stories of real people who’ve reached out for help, visit Today is Better.