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11:30 AM Sat, Jan. 19th

Miner Special Coverage- Suicide: The scary little secret

Ronald French

Ronald French

KINGMAN - To the outside world, "Mark" had it all. In his mid-40s, successful in his line of work, married with a family, Mark lived with a constant smile and happy demeanor to the outside world.

Behind the perfectly manicured yard, though, Mark had a dark and painful secret. The handsome, successful man was battling mental illness. Depression and anxiety had surfaced in his life and he didn't know what to do. By doing nothing, Mark slid deeper and deeper into his illness.

"I was miserable and I couldn't understand why," Mark said. "We didn't have any problems many people experience like financial or relationship problems or any real issues with our children. But I had this blackness I couldn't get rid of.

"It was like having a bucket stuck on my foot that I couldn't shake."

Ronald D. French, M.A., LISAC, Adult Services clinical director at Mohave Mental Health is not surprised by Mark's story. "Everyone has risk factors," he said. "Being an adult male is a risk factor."

As Mark talked about those dark days, he touched on several risk factors he had not even been aware of. "I was very close to my parents," he said. "They passed away within a few months of each other and for me it went beyond missing them. They were a couple of my best friends and aside from my wife, the people I always bounced ideas off of. We talked on the phone all of the time. I lost that interaction and it was causing me pain. Then there was just that battle to keep up the image I had created."

Mark's wife "Jenna" was the only person aware of the dark world he lived in each day of his life. She taught school and, like Mark, never spoke of the problem.

"The darkness just kept getting worse and worse and I didn't want to burden anyone," Mark said. "I even stopped sharing things with Jenna. I had a lot of time at work saved for vacation and sick time, so I used it all in bulk."

"Isolation is another high risk factor," French said.

"That was probably the worst decision I made because when I was working it kept my mind occupied to some degree," Mark continued. "I was around people and I had a certain amount of feeling successful at the end of the day. Then I was just sitting at home alone all day."

Soon, the simplest things like taking a shower, getting out of bed and doing yard work, something he once enjoyed, became excruciating. Mark even stopped going to his doctor's appointments and taking the necessary steps to keep his blood pressure and diabetes in control.

"I still don't know exactly how to explain this part," Mark said. "After about three weeks of being home alone and hiding in my bedroom at night, I couldn't stand the mental and physical pain depression had brought into my life."

Mark won't share how he attempted suicide in April of 2013. He does explain that it was the fast thinking of Jenna that saved his life and her strong-willed personality that helped him in his journey back to sanity.

"I am blessed to have a wife who didn't give up on me," Mark said. "I'm doing better now, but like any illness I have to take my medicine, continue in counseling and I no longer hide. Mental illness is part of my life and I'm not ashamed of it."

The Mohave Mental Health Clinic is a resource for people like Mark or anyone needing help. Theirs is an open door policy.

"If someone has the need for help, they can come in and ask and they will receive help," French said. "They may have to wait for a while that day, but we won't turn people away."

The clinic works with a variety of financial approaches from state assistance to a sliding scale.

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