Mark Henick speaks and leads workshops about mental health at diverse conferences, schools, workplaces, and events across North America and around the world.
2:14 – Mark Henick introduction. Tedx Talk. Story of a stranger.
5:48 – What goes through the mind who is contemplating suicide?
8:05 – What did the stranger say to keep you from committing suicide?
13:05 – What do you advise to those left behind from suicide? Losing a loved one to suicide.
14:43 – Suicide is an illness. Tony Robbins said, “Suicide is the most selfish mental illness.” Cognitive collapse.
17:58 – What is your advice for those who are concerned about a friend or loved one who is contemplating suicide? Ask them if they are suicidal. Talk openly about it. You won’t give them the idea to do it but you may give them the permission to admit it. Don’t telegraph your judgement by asking if they’re going to “do something stupid.” Be non-judgmental.
22:51 – Does everyone thing about suicide?
24:31 – Where you born a suicidal person or did you BECOME a suicidal person? There is no single gene that leads to mental illness. Genetic pre-disposition is real. Your environment can turn those genes on. Suicidal thoughts don’t come out of nowhere. There’s often a slow build of many overlapping conditions.
26:53 – Who was your first attitude coach and how do you define attitude? Having a resilient attitude is always about what you can do with the information. Anne Lamott memoir writer. David Sedaris author.
34:23 – What was Mike’s attitude and what was that day like?
37:31 – Knowledge through the decades. What is the attitude the lesson as a newborn baby? Stay curious and always approach life with that childlike mind.
38:38 – What is the attitude lesson at the age of 10? Not everybody is going to understand you and that’s ok. Your journey is to understand yourself.
39:27 – What is the attitude lesson at the age of 20? Lean towards the discomfort.
40:25 – What is the attitude lesson at the age of 30? Striving less can be a good thing. I like who I am. I like what I have.
41:40 – What’s the secret sauce to bridging the gap? Change is the only constant. It won’t always be this hard. It won’t always be this great. Gratitude. Hold your struggles lightly.
44:10 – National Suicide Prevention lifeline. Mental Health America. Etc… Never give up!
45:00 – A message of hope.
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In this episode, we have an exceptional guest. Mr. Mark Henick is with us. He is the host of the So-Called Normal Podcast, as well as the Living Well Podcast. He is also an accomplished author as well as a keynote speaker. His book was A Memoir Of Family, Depression and Resilience. A lot of us have been down, battling this thing called depression and trying to bridge the gap from how we become weak to strong. How do we bounce back? What are the answers to that?
I thought through our feedback with you, this is a topic that you guys all wanted. I searched for somebody that has the expertise and real-life knowledge that can speak to the challenges and attitude that it takes for us to become more resilient and overcome this thing called depression and the absolute insanity that our world is in. Let’s bring up my good friend, Mark Henick. Mark, welcome to the show.
Glenn, thank you so much for having me.
It’s my pleasure. Mark has one of the very top TEDx speeches ever which involves a stranger who saved your life. Maybe that might be a fun way to start to tell us a little bit about that talk and how that chance encounter changed your attitude.
It starts at the end or at least it felt like the end to me at the time. I was a teenager growing up in a small town on the East Coast. I’d been struggling with my mental health for several years by that point. I’d been in and out of the hospital with increasingly dangerous suicide attempts over the course of about three years until I found myself one night unable to carry that load any further. I had climbed up over the railing of a bridge. I was prepared to die, to end my life. If it wasn’t for a stranger who came up behind me, who stopped, approached me a good distance away and talked to me, I wouldn’t be here.
That’s one of the stories that I wanted to communicate in the TED Talk because there are so many people out there who have been, if not in that same kind of position, in very similar positions where they’ve been on that either literal or metaphorical edge between life and death, between being here and not being here, that I knew I needed to tell that story. That’s what I told. I told about how that stranger saved my life and pulled me off that bridge on that fateful night many years ago.
Where was the bridge?
I grew up in a small town called Sydney, Nova Scotia. That’s on the East Coast of Canada.
Was there a name for the bridge? Was it a town bridge?
It is another non-descript in a small town. What was unique about it is that my hometown was a manufacturing town. During both World Wars, they had a large steel plant that was there. They provided steel for the war effort for most of the Eastern seaboard. During that generation, it was a prosperous, successful town. Everybody there worked in the steel industry and/or related industries in some way.
By the time I was growing up, the plant was still there but it was mostly closed down. Everybody had lost their jobs. I went to that bridge that stretched over the steel plant, connecting my community to the rest of the city, because it represented for me everything that I felt inside. When I looked out over this abandoned steel plant, this toxic waste site, that’s how I felt inside. I felt like no person could understand the abandonment and emptiness that I felt inside but this place did. That’s why I went there. Like many suicide hotspots as they’re known or places where people go disproportionately to end their lives, there’s something emotionally significant about it. That was the place for me.
Our whole metaphor here is, “Bridging the gap. Getting across the bridge from one side to the next.” Hopefully, none of our readers are desiring to jump off the bridge but to cross the bridge. What goes through your mind or somebody that’s looking to end it all? You’ve studied this. This is why I’m asking you. Is it sometimes an immediate reaction and it’s like, “I’m doing this,” or is sometimes it been thought out for a month? Maybe it’s both. What’s the attitude of somebody that’s suicidal?
Suicide is a combination of a number of factors. I’m of the theoretical, academic view and personal view for that matter, having been there myself. There has to be something that sets the groundwork. There’s a struggle. There’s a preexisting training process almost that goes into it. You’re not born knowing how to kill yourself. This is something that people learn how to do. They cognitively rehearse. We practice it out in our minds. We often plan.
There’s a misconception that everybody will write a note or things of that nature. That’s not always the case but there is some cognitive process that goes into in advance. There’s also a well-known risk factor. For example, having a mental illness diagnosed or not, specifically depression and people who use substances are at higher risk or I should say misuse substances. They’re at higher risk of dying by suicide.
There are all those predisposing factors that elevate your risk but then there’s a trigger. There’s something that sets that in motion. I wanted to explore both of these factors in my TED Talk and the book. In the TED Talk, I look at the idea of cognitive rigidity. I call it a perceptual collapse that happens when you don’t see any other option. You don’t see either side of the bridge. You only see over the bridge as you escape from the pain that you’re feeling. You think that’s your only option.
Depression is a very convincing liar because it lies to you in your voice. You think it’s you but it’s not. There’s this cognitive rigidity that sets in and then there’s a trigger that sets this almost automatic process in motion. It’s that combination of factors, hopelessness and helplessness but then the impulse that leads people to die.
What did the stranger say to you to help you back off? Did he ask a certain question? What’s the most memorable thing that he said? Did he talk to you first and then grab you or did he grab you first and then talk to you?
It was what he didn’t say that stuck with me the most because as I was on the wrong side of the railing of the bridge, I was standing on about 1.5-inch or so of concrete, looking down at the ground and out at the horizon that I thought was unreachable to somebody like me with a long-standing history by that point of a mental illness. I didn’t even hear him arrive initially but he came up a good distance behind me and approached the railing. Certainly, out of grabbing distance, he was a bit of a distance away. He allowed the space. In our conversation, he introduced himself. I don’t think I answered. He asked me some questions I didn’t say very much in return but he wasn’t overly prescriptive about it either.
He didn’t tell me all the silly or seemed silly to me things that people think in these kinds of situations. Tomorrow is another day. That’s part of the problem that tomorrow’s another day of this same stuff that I’m dealing with. I didn’t want to die for the sake of dying. I wanted to die because I didn’t think I could live that way anymore. I didn’t have the skills and tools to manage the emotional storm that was inside me all the time. I thought this was my only option. He didn’t come in and ask me about my diagnosis. I had a lot by that point. He didn’t ask me about my hospitalizations. I’d been in and out of the hospital more than half a dozen times, my medications or therapies I tried.
He didn’t sound like a doctor, which was so important to me at that time because I felt like I had talked to so many doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, guidance counselors and social workers. They all seemed to have a very similar kind of approach to my problem, which was that I was the problem. That I was like a broken-down car on the side of the road that everybody else was trying to figure out the problem that was Mark. I felt objectified by the system. By him allowing that space for me to be, allowed that subjectivity to come into it, that relationship building. As that started to happen, I felt connected to this complete stranger. I couldn’t even fully see him. I could only see he was wearing a light brown jacket at the time.
I didn’t even hear his name. There was little getting into my mind at that time. What pulled me out of that circumstance in some ways was when I realized the crowds had started together. This was almost midnight on a Sunday night in March in a small town at that where everything still was closed on Sundays for the most part at that time. These crowds had gathered because in small towns, people listened to the chatter on the police scanners to see if there was any action happening and if there was anybody they can talk about or what the rumors are. People had gathered and the police had arrived. They set up sawhorse wooden barricades on either side of the bridge.
There was a group of young men. I remember one of them shouting out to me to jump. He called me a coward. When he said that, that guy on the sidelines, it made me forget about this stranger in the light brown jacket who was there with me and creating space with me. When the stranger on the sideline said that I let go of the railing and I started to fall, that’s when the stranger who was over my shoulder grabbed me and physically pulled me back into life and the world.
It ended up being the last time I ever tried to kill myself. The realization for me was reflecting on those two strangers that night. The one who chose to stand on the sidelines, shout out to me and call me a coward and the stranger who chose to have my back, save my life and reach out. I chose to be like that stranger. That’s what changed everything for me.
There wasn’t water below. It was a concrete pad.
It was a toxic craggy ground below. There was a rusted chainlink fence stretching the distance. All I could think about was how I didn’t want to land on the fence. This is how skewed my perception was at the time that I didn’t want to hurt anymore. That was the whole point. I didn’t know how to not hurt. That’s why I’m so grateful to that stranger who even though he was scared, approached me in that most vulnerable moment and showed me what I could be like someday. That’s what I needed. I needed to know that I could be like somebody who reaches out and helps others.
Sadly enough, I coached football for 25 years and one of my former players, Lamonte Gwynn, I’m going to dedicate this episode to him, took his life. What do you advise those that are left behind after a suicide?
First of all, I’m sorry to hear about your loss and the loss of that family and community. Suicide is always a tragedy. It’s important for people to remember who are left behind that that person was probably struggling with their mental health at the time. They probably, whether diagnosed or not, had some kind of mental health challenge at the time. This was my whole objective with the TED Talk and later with my book. To communicate your perception is skewed and collapsed, you think you’re doing the right thing.Suicide is always a tragedy. Click To Tweet
When I was on that bridge, I thought that I’d be doing my friends, family and loved ones a favor. I thought I’d be sparing them the trouble that was me. I was wrong. It would’ve devastated them, as I’m sure the family members of this poor young man are devastated but I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t do it to hurt anybody. I thought I was helping. I hope that can provide some comfort to people who have lost a loved one to know that their loved one was not thinking clearly at that moment and that they didn’t do this to hurt them.
Tony Robbins is a great motivational speaker. People say positives and negatives about him. He always said, “Suicide is the most self-absorbing sickness there is.” In other words, there’s nothing more selfish than being suicidal. I’m curious to know what you think of that characterization.
In the traditional sense of the word, suicide is not selfish. It is an illness, a tragic fatal outcome and always a preventable tragic and fatal outcome of severe and persistent mental illnesses. There are some exceptions but that’s generally the case. This is not easy to communicate in a populist way. When you look at the clinical aspects of it, there is a certain self-focus that comes when you’re suicidal. I would clarify that comes with a need for self-preservation. When you are suicidal, you are collapsing in on yourself. When you’re feeling threatened, afraid, alone, you’re feeling like you’re struggling and you can’t make it anymore, it’s an evolutionary imperative.
What your brain is supposed to do is lock in and try to focus in as much as you can to get through that struggle. Your brain’s only evolutionary imperative is to keep itself alive. That’s what it tries to do. As a result, however, this is at the core of that cognitive collapse that I mentioned. You’re so hyper-focused on getting through. They block out some of the stuff that can drag you out of yourself, grow, change and not get locked into that place. It’s often not helpful to say something like suicide is selfish. It makes people feel bad and guilty. There is something, profoundly, internally focused in a pathological way at the core of suicide.
The attitude of a person that’s contemplating or committing suicide is that all the focus is on them. It’s on no one else. That’s what he was trying to communicate.
I would even push back a bit on that when I was on that bridge. I’ve learned this as a counselor as well. You do think about other people. You think you’re doing them a favor and they wouldn’t miss you if you’re gone. You’re wrong on all counts but you do focus on others. In some ways, you focus too much on others. Instead, if you’re able to focus differently and sometimes more intensely on your agency, what you can do irrespective of what other people say about you or what they will do or how they’ll react or treat you is if you focus more intensely on your agency and ability to change your situation, that can be a protective mechanism. That can be helpful. That was very helpful for me.
Ther readers might know in their life that they go, “That person is down. Maybe a little suicidal,” but we don’t know. The man in the brown jacket, that antidote and what you said about how he gave you space and he wasn’t a doctor and said all the cliché things. What’s your advice to the readers who are concerned about a friend, family or business associate that they think could ultimately do the worst harming themselves and committing suicide? What would you say are the 2 or 3 best things they could do to either help that person or gain more clarity on if that person is suicidal?
If you’re concerned that somebody might be suicidal, ask them. You will not give them the idea as though they had never thought of it before. That’s a much too common misconception. One of the most effective ways to prevent suicide is to talk openly about it. You won’t give them the idea to do it but you will ideally give them permission to admit it, which is key. Ask them if they’re suicidal directly. Don’t hedge around it or insert either explicit or implicit judgments in your question. Don’t say, “Are you thinking about doing something stupid? Are you going to do something bad? Are you going to do something awful to yourself?” By saying stuff like that well-intentioned maybe but you’re reflecting your understandable fear and biases.
You’re telegraphing to them that you’re already judging what they’re thinking if they’re thinking it. Very directly, “Are you thinking about killing yourself? Are you thinking about hurting yourself,” if that’s a concern. There is a fine distinction there. They might not be thinking about hurting themselves. They might be thinking about killing themselves and that is a difference. Have that open, honest, direct, non-judgmental conversation. 1 of 3 things could happen. They admit it. They say, yes, they are. They deny it but they are or they deny it and they’re not. Start working back. They deny it and do not. At least you asked. Now they know that you care. Maybe it’s a great opportunity to have a bit of a conversation about mental health, which is great.
The next possibility, they deny it but they are. This, I would argue, is the most common response. As a society, we tell people every day that they shouldn’t talk about suicide, even in terms of how we help them. People are afraid to admit that they’re suicidal because they don’t want to be hospitalized. They don’t want to be thought of as different, crazy or weird. They don’t want to put people out. They don’t want to inconvenience other people. They already feel like an inconvenience. They don’t want to make it any harder. Instead, just because they say they’re not, they might be and there might be some risk, then you need to give a little bit more thought to what it is you’re observing.
Are they talking about suicide more, which could be a risk factor? Are they giving away belongings, for example, or doing other things that might indicate they think the end is coming? Do they have any diagnosis or even an obvious experience of depression and anxiety, particularly of substance-related disorders as well? Do they have means at home to end their life? Do they own a gun, for example? Are you aware of other means? That increases the potential risk of impulsive action.
Navigating all of those issues and if they won’t admit it but you’re convinced there’s a risk, then sometimes, unfortunately, you have no choice but to call 911 to intervene in some other way. I would much rather have somebody be mad at me than be dead. That’s a very real risk that they might be mad at you for that. Ideally, there are other ways to deal with this kind of situation but that is one.
The last of those three options I presented to you is you ask them and they admit it. They say that they are. That’s one of the biggest fears that people have about these conversations because then they think, “What do I do? I don’t know how to stop them.” You don’t have to. What you have to do is to be in their corner and their side to say, “I don’t know what to tell you but I’m willing to help you find out, help you get connected with professionals who can help you and walk with you on this journey.” People want a teammate. They don’t want somebody to fix all their problems.
Does everybody think about killing themself?
Far more people than we realize for sure. There’s always a spectrum of people. The majority of people probably have. Like you and me, they have had thoughts of this nature. Not everybody, either fantasizes or idealizes suicide. Not everybody plans but even in that bracket of people far more than we think, there are even far more people than we think who have had explicit suicide attempts. We need to have these kinds of conversations because what stops people from opening up and therefore getting or seeking help is the idea that they’re weird and different.What stops people from opening up and seeking help is the idea that they're weird and different. Click To Tweet
When I was in the depth of my struggle, I didn’t want to open up for that reason. I thought I’d be excluded even further. I thought that I was already alone enough as it was. We need to have these kinds of conversations because they open the doors for people to admit what they’re already thinking and feeling. The next part of that too is to help them realize that hope is possible. Not only possible but recovery is likely and expected for the vast majority of issues that lead to suicide. The problem is that we’re not getting access to people early enough. That’s because of stigma.
Were you born a suicidal person or did you become a suicidal person? If you did become it, what age were you when you tried to kill yourself? What was the progression? Was it 3 or 5 years or 6 months? Talk to us a little bit about your history and how you ended up standing on the bridge.
Something that any good geneticist would tell you with respect to mental illness is that there’s no single gene that leads to mental illnesses. It implicates a wide, array of genes. Even if you have a genetic predisposition such as through family history, that is a risk factor, no question. I very strongly believe that I do have that genetic predisposition. There’s no indication whatsoever that you’ll struggle with any of those issues. You could be genetically at risk but never experience any of these issues. What turns those genes on then is your environment and circumstance? It’s almost the perfect storm in the way of somebody who is, whether it be through temperament, the way they’re born and the way that they deal with their emotions or through their genetic makeup.
Somebody who’s already at risk, who then finds themselves in a situation that triggers that risk. That was very much the case for me. I grew up in a broken home. My father left when I was very young. My mother worked very long hours. We never talked about our emotions, how to manage them or what to do. I grew up poor in a poor community. There were a lot of other compounding risk factors. That eventually, gradually led to my struggle.
I was twelve when I first openly expressed my suicidality. I’d been experiencing it for years before that, at least 9 or 10 years old. Suicidal ideation or completed suicide doesn’t come out of nowhere despite the fact that many people will say that they didn’t see it coming. There’s often a slow build of many overlapping risk factors that get to that point and that was certainly the case for me.
I always talk about your two attitude coaches. You don’t get to or you’re one if you’re from a single family. Who was your first attitude coach? What does attitude mean to you?
I had a junior high school guidance counselor, who was one of the first people to intervene in struggles. He was stuck by the system as I and everybody else. His only option was to take me to the hospital as he did several times. He was one of the first people who started to notice that I was struggling and to have honest conversations about my struggle. He wasn’t a therapist to that degree but at least he was willing to talk to me about my approach to certain issues. I remember distinctly I wrote about this in my book telling him very matter-of-factly when I was initially suicidal. He was one of the first people who found out.
I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. I thought it was normal or so-called normal. That is the case may be because it’s the way that I had gradually grown up learning how to think. He made clear to me that not everybody thinks about killing themselves when they fail a test or when they’re struggling with something but that’s a pretty extreme reaction to what I came to think of as trivial triggers when they’re not all that trivial for me because my threshold was so low. He was the first person that gave me that kind of insight. Fortunately, I’ve had many virgils and guides along the way who have added something else to my view of my mindset and attitude that it’s not your emotions themselves that are the problem.
People have strong emotions. Your feelings are not facts. Your feelings are data points. It’s what then you do with that data and what you do with those feelings that make all of the difference. When I started to learn that I could use my struggle for good, it made me feel that I had a purpose. Maybe I wasn’t a victim of my circumstance. Maybe my life was happening for me rather than to me. That reversal was what gave me back my agency. It’s what made me feel like I could do something meaningful with my life.Your feelings are not facts. Your feelings are data points. It's what you do with that data and what you do with those feelings that make all the difference. Click To Tweet
When when I speak and all that, one of my favorite slides is, “Are you living in your circumstances or your vision?” Living in your circumstances can be a rough way but when you have no vision, what else are you going to see? What’s your definition of attitude?
Having a resilient attitude is always about what you can do with the material that you’re given. Anne Lamott, the writer, was a wonderful inspiration for me in writing my memoir. She has famously said, “You own everything that has happened to you.” I love that because David Sedaris, the writer, has written about this that he can sit back in a situation, whatever it might be, positive, negative or neutral and any variation in between.
You can look at it somewhat objectively and say, “This is great stuff. This is good material. There’s something raw and interesting here. I can work with this. It’s your clay that you can mold.” That’s a difference in attitude if something negative or challenging and that’s a subjective definition. If something is subjectively challenging to you, not saying, “This sucks. This is the worst thing ever,” but rather, “This sucks. What do I do now,” that’s a fundamental attitude.
Your suicide journey began at twelve. How old were you when you were sitting on the other side of the bridge or top of the bridge?
I was fifteen when I was on the other side of the bridge. I’m also very clear with people too that I was sent back to the hospital that night after the stranger and the light brown jacket saved my life. When I walked out of the hospital the next day, they only kept me for 24 hours, a couple of things happened. It was the first day of spring. I later realized it was symbolically very powerful for me, this idea of rebirth that I have another chance but also I was fixated on this image of this duality of the stranger in the light brown jacket who reached out and saved my life and the stranger on the sidelines who didn’t.
It’s not like everything changed for me that day. It’s not like suddenly, “Hallelujah. Everything got better.” Recovery is a weird road. Recovery is up and down and back and forth. There are relapses and times when you feel, “Not this again. I can’t keep doing this. I can’t keep going back here,” because I relapsed lots of times in the intervening years.
What happens is that when I got to a point, particularly around the TED Talk more than a dozen years later, when I looked back at my life and I realized how far I had come, I didn’t see the small increments of recovery along the way until I saw how far I had come. That’s when I became motivated to find that stranger who saved my life all those years earlier. I set off on a social media campaign. It ended up going viral all around the world. I finally, more than a dozen years later, found the stranger who saved my life. I finally got to thank him for everything that he had done for me.
Can you say his name?
His name is Mike. I splashed him all over TV national and international television. He was very gracious about it because he didn’t just save my life at that moment by pulling me off that bridge but he gave me my whole life ever since. The gratitude that I carry into my life every single day for Mike was for that broader gift that he gave me for giving me my whole life. The best thing that I could do was to show him the life that he gave me. He met my two-year-old little boy at the time and my wife.
He’s my second little boy’s godfather. He hasn’t met my little girl yet but he hopefully will someday soon. The beautiful family that I love, my job, career or passion, none of this would’ve been possible had he not created that brave space between us at that moment where it didn’t matter that I spoke and that I didn’t need to because he was there at my side.
What was Mike doing earlier that day? What’s Mike’s attitude? What’s the lesson as a person, now that you know him? What’s he like? Did you ever talk about when he woke up to think about the incredible thing that happened? How did his day end that day? Was it a normal day for him? Did he feel like something might be different? I’d be curious about that. I’d like to know what’s his overall general attitude.
Mike had started working at a group home for young people. He was there less than a year. He had no training in suicide intervention. He wasn’t a mental health professional. If anything, it was his role prior to that had been, similar to a big brother’s or sister’s kind of mentor that he had been doing before that. He brought that relationship-building skill into it. What made the difference for me is that effort to connect. He told me many years later when we finally reconnected. He had written me a letter shortly before I went on national television to try to find him.
When he found out I was looking for him, he sent me a letter. In it, he told me about how afraid he was when he approached me on that railing that night. He was no expert. He didn’t know what to do. Even after he saved my life, he talked about how traumatic it was for him, to not know if I had gone back the next day and finished what I had started. He also told me about how when he saw my TED Talk, what it was like for him to see somebody who was vulnerable and had been victimized to be standing on that famous red dot. As he said so confidently, despite how I felt inside delivering a talk of that nature, he didn’t know he could feel proud about somebody whom he had spent little time with.
When we finally got to meet in person again, as we have quite a few times, since that time, he was the same person now that he was then, which was somebody incredibly empathetic and who has committed to understanding or at least creating space for others. It turns out I’ve been working in mental health ever since that night we first met but so has he. He’s continued to work in crisis intervention with young boys primarily, ever since. He’s probably saved countless more lives. He’s very modest about it though than mine. That’s the type of person that he is. Many other youth and community workers doing this work every day are like him.
God bless all those workers. My brother’s in the mental health space. He was on our show. You do so many great things. The need now is more than ever. I want to transition. We do this thing called Knowledge Through The Decades where we walk through the decades of your life and ask you about the attitude lessons that you’ve learned or garnered from being that age. We always start with childbirth. You’ve hit on rebirth and birth. I’m sure you probably don’t remember being born. Do you have an attitude lesson when it comes to rebirth or the beginning of life?
Stay curious to always approach your life, whether it’s a challenge or otherwise, with that childlike mind. I wonder what this will be like now. That’s a wonderful and exciting way to be.
You’re in third or fourth grade. Do you remember being ten? Do you remember your teacher? I love to know who your teacher is. I always like to give to our teachers. What was the attitude lesson you learned at ten? What were you going through in your life? What’s the thing that maybe helped frame your attitude at ten?
If I were to frame it positively because that’s right when I started to go through a number of my struggles, it would be that not everybody is going to understand you and that’s okay. They don’t have to. Your journey is to understand yourself.
Young kids, especially ten-year-olds feel that. That’s when kids get ostracized in school and when bullying begins. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on with that. That’s beautiful. You’re twenty years old. What were you doing? Were you in college? What was your attitude lesson at twenty?
Lean toward the discomfort. I was the first of my immediate family to go off to college. In college, I never quite fit into any one box. I wanted to study Psychology. I did all of those courses but I wasn’t fitting into the field of Psychology. I studied Philosophy. I did all of the courses for honors and philosophy too and I wasn’t fitting into the Philosophy or Psychology. I ended up finding my way to doing an interdisciplinary degree. Likewise, that’s what I’ve done ever since, which has been to straddle the boundaries between fields and ideas to push those boundaries. That only comes with a certain appetite to forge your way.Lean toward the discomfort. Straddle the boundaries between fields and ideas to push those boundaries. Click To Tweet
Do you remember your 30th birthday? Where were you? What’s your attitude lesson at 30?
Something changes when you get to your 30s. Maybe this is just me but I’ve heard it from others as well, which is that you strive less. That’s a good thing. I spent so much of my early life being ambitious and striving for more. In my 30s, I’m good. I like who I am and what I have. I can have more and I’ll continue to strive to a degree but if this is it, I’d be okay with that. There’s a certain contentment that can come whether it’s in your 30s, 40s or hopefully at some point in your life that I’m very fortunate to have achieved.
Think about the 15-year-old kid on the bridge and the 30-something gentleman that is on the other side of the bridge. You’ve bridged the gap from where you were standing there, looking down to hopefully where you want to be. I’m sure you got more bridges that you’re going to cross. What was your attitude lesson? What are the 2 or 3 when you think about how you were able to bridge the gap from that time until now? What are the most important mindsets? What are the tricks? What are the antidotes? Our GAPers want to know what’s the secret sauce to bridge the gap for you.
Getting comfortable with the idea that change is the only constant that I would’ve told my fifteen-year-old self that it’s not always going to be this way. It won’t always be this hard but I also tell my 30-plus-year-old self, even in my happiest best moments, “It’s not always going to be this way. It won’t always be this great.” That’s not fatalism. That’s gratitude. It teaches you to hold your past and struggles lightly but to hold your positive moments with such esteem, gratitude and fulfillment that you know that they’re not going to last forever. Don’t cling. You can’t cling to your past or future. We can only be here now.
Have you ever saved anybody’s life like the man in the brown coat? Has that ever happened to you? Is it more you’re working with people prior to the worst hour?
I’ve never pulled anybody off a bridge. I wouldn’t be the first to minimize my role in somebody else’s recovery journey. Since doing the TED Talk, the media stuff, the book and all of this work, I’m grateful to be contacted regularly by people all over the world, especially young people. I’ve been told countless times that I was their stranger in the light brown jacket. They had gone on to Google and googled, “How do I kill myself?” My video came up and it stopped them. Dozens of people have told me some version of that story. For me, that is incomprehensible but also a source of such incredible gratitude that I could give back to the world what Mike gave to me.
Readers, if you want to find out, it’s MarkHenick.com. He is all over social media. He is pretty easy to find. I can tell by talking to you, the guy’s got a giving heart. He’s here to help. If you’re considering killing yourself or thinking way too much about suicide, where’s the best place to go help? What would you recommend to somebody who’s maybe sitting in their car and thinking about it? Who should they reach out to?
The first thing you should know is about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. There are also community mental health organizations like Mental Health America and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. There’s your emergency room, your family doctor and friends. Tell somebody. That is the key. If that person either doesn’t respond or doesn’t know how to respond the way that you need, tell somebody else. Never ever give up.
To finish the last question, what is in your future? What’s going on? What’s your next adventure if there is one? If there’s none, that’s cool because you’re cool with yourself. Lastly, how about a message of hope or something from your heart for our readers that will change their attitude after you’re done? We’d love to know your final thought.
I’m exploring ideas from my second book. It’d be a little bit different than the first. My first was a memoir. This one will be unpacking how we learn neurologically, psychologically and socially, how we learn to be depressed and everything that that means. I’ve been working on that. That’s a long-term project. I would tell readers, if they’re struggling and they find themselves unmoored in the ocean of life, remain open to the possibilities to come. You don’t know what your life will be tomorrow, in ten years or longer. Why not just enjoy the ride? If it’s hard now, that’s okay. Let it be hard but everything passes, including the difficulty. Hang in there.
This was an awesome episode with the one and only Mark Henick. Mark, thank you so much for sharing with us your story and attitude. I believe that the attitude of everybody that reads this, not only for them but for the people in their lives will help. God bless you. Go check out Mark Henick at MarkHenick.com.
- So-Called Normal Podcast
- Living Well Podcast
- A Memoir Of Family, Depression and Resilience
- TEDx – Why We Need To Talk About Suicide | Mark Henick | TEDx Toronto
- Mental Health America
- National Alliance on Mental Illness