As a plague of teen suicides ravaged the province and suicide rates doubled in 2012, one Red Deer man is attempting to shed light and awareness on the issue of mental health.
Damien Laliberte, 28, a local hairdresser and photographer has taken it upon himself to provide a resource for those living with mental illness that is above and beyond the resources currently available in the form of a documentary.
“I think that all of the recent events have kind of put it in people’s minds that something needs to be done,” said Laliberte. “But no one is willing to step out and say that what’s being done isn’t good enough.”
Laliberte has taken it upon himself to be the person who steps up and educates those with misconceptions regarding mental health, depression and suicide.
“My dad is a photographer and a videographer so I know my way around a camera,” he said on how he began the project. “I’m not trying to fix people. I’m not trying to give instructions. I’m not a counselor. I just want to create a slice of truth and honesty.”
At the beginning of March, Laliberte had the idea to make a short one-minute video that addressed the issue of suicide titled Inside My Reality in which he stated that the purpose of the documentary was to “Give a stage to the people who need it the most.”
The reaction to the video was a cascade of emails to his web site www.insidemyreality.com from teens and young adults. He was overwhelmed by the volume and created the Inside My Reality facebook page to better manage the feedback.
“I wanted to make a documentary, basically interviewing young people on stuff like that (mental health) and I wanted to focus on them and take me out of it and just have them tell their stories mostly because what I feel we have (for resources) is inadequate.”
Having lived a life of uncertainty himself, Laliberte was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and social anxiety disorder in his late 20s but said that he knew that he had a mental illness and if he had been diagnosed earlier in life he may be further ahead.
“When I was their age I had no idea what was going on and I was in the exact same boat as these kids,” he said. “The stuff that we have said about depression – the materials and the pamphlets and the stuff counselors say and even the few documentaries we have are really, really bad.”
Laliberte explained when he was 15 if he had access to a resource like that of the documentary he is making then he may have recognized that he was not as alone in the world as he once thought he was.
He has begun work to accumulate the resources he will need to finish the film such as proper lighting and audio devices. Since day one he has been fully funding the project himself and that has resulted in all of his extra time and money going into the project.
“Up until now I have been funding it fully myself. I’ve spent thousands of my own dollars trying to put all of the stuff I need together,” said Laliberte. “I live paycheque to paycheque and I still have to eat.”
Upon realizing that his personal funding may not be adequate to fully fund his project, he opened a pay pal account on the www.insidemyreality.com web site and began accepting donations that have proved to further his project.
Laliberte hopes to finish the film within the next year, and will be speaking at Tedx 2013 in Red Deer on May 24 where he will address the audience on his project and mental health.