Ryan Langlois is walking with 20-pounds of rocks on his back to symbolize the extra weight borne every day by people with mental illness.
The Red Deer singer/songwriter, who has lived with depression and anxiety for three years, is in the midst of a 30-day personal walk-a-thon.
Langlois has pledged to walk for an hour each day until Oct. 4 with a backpack filled with rocks to raise at least $1,000 for the Canadian Mental Health Association. The 39-year-old is also trying to raise public awareness of how mental illness can affect anyone.
According to stats, it impacts one in five Canadians. But Langlois suspects many people may not yet realize that their depression is something other than a just a passing dark mood.
For a long time the former member of the now defunct country group, The Boom Chucka Boys, blamed his chronic exhaustion and low spirits on his busy schedule and whatever wasn’t going right in his life.
But one day in June of 2017, Langlois had what he calls “a mental break” at the end of what had been a very good day.
He recalled he and his wife had gone down to Edmonton to watch their teenage son stretch his own performing talents on stage. Everything had gone perfectly, yet he couldn’t shake this growing sense of doom.
“I felt about as bad as could be,” said Langlois, who finally realized “this wasn’t something I could fix by eating right or exercising.”
The next day, he called a work mental health line — which lead to him being off for three months on short-term disability from his pipe-fitter’s job with Atco Gas.
A counsellor told him “If you had a broken arm, you’d go to a doctor to seek treatment, This is no different,” said Langlois, who learned a chemical imbalance was causing his depression.
He gradually managed to climb out of that dark place with on-going medication and counselling. Langlois is glad to be able to sleep properly and smile again — and to have regain his sense of fulfillment.
In fact, the solo performer is a finalist — along with Red Deer’s Jamie Woodfin — in Project Country Wild!, an artists’ development program that will continue whittling down the list of competitors through a series of public concerts this fall in Calgary.
While it’s becoming more socially acceptable to openly discuss the mental illness, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), is pleased that Langlois is speaking out.
“For those struggling with their mental health, it’s often hard to take the first step and reach out for help, much less believe that things can get better,” explains the CMHA for Central Alberta’s executive director, Christine Stewart.
“We are grateful for Ryan’s willingness to share his journey through his mental health struggles and his road to healing,” adds Stewart. She hopes his story inspires others “to take that difficult first step and have hope.”
Langlois invites anyone interested in learning more about his walk-a-thon, or who want to make a donation to the CMHA, to click on the links on his social media sites.