Mental Health and Heroes

A year and 10 days ago, Philip Seymour Hoffman left us all behind to rest peacefully among the greats and the not-so-greats. He was Hollywood’s everyman. His chunky physique didn’t factor into how large the characters he played seemed to us. He gave such honor to the ugliest types of humankind and somehow managed to expose the beauty in the most tortured of souls.  He was an anti-hero, but he was my hero.

His work embodied the suffering he felt in real life.  It was raw and visceral and for some, dangerously relatable.

We all have our burdens. Things that weigh on us, things that are constantly in the back of our minds and all too often, cripple us when standing on that fine edge between achievement and failure. Sometimes these conditions take the blurry, vague form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, or an eating disorder. Sometimes it’s PTSD or an extreme (or not so extreme), psychotic or mood disorder. Sometimes it’s depression. Depression and suicide have cost me more than a few friends. People that were funny, warm, creative and smarter than they would ever have given themselves credit for. This world was better with them in it. 

For me though, it’s anxiety. For my hero, it was addiction.

Philip Seymour Hoffman had been sober so long (23 years to be exact-ish) that he thought he could risk drinking “in moderation” again. That was in late 2013. A few months later, he had checked himself into rehab. Shortly after that, he was gone, passing away from combined drug intoxication.

Mental illness lives and exists with us always. It lives with us after therapy, after taking medication and even after 23 years.  What doesn’t exist however, is this invisible nexus between mental illness and craziness or between depression or bipolar disorder and criminality. We hear of people that have committed murders, people that have died of drug overdoses, and people that commit crimes to survive because they’ve been forced out onto the streets and cast aside by society. While we may never know exactly what role mental illness plays in their life, it’s important for us to accept part of the blame. Where were we when these people needed help? We’ve created a world where people with mental disorders don’t feel safe. When we feel sick, we tell someone. We call our bosses and go see a doctor. As soon as we can’t put a finger on our pain, as soon as that sickness is in our minds, for some reason, we can’t call work anymore, so some of us lose our jobs. We don’t feel safe enough to go to a doctor. We don’t feel safe enough to tell our friends or family. The stigma we’ve created about mental health is one we need to forget.

Depression, anxiety and addiction might be hard to understand for those that don’t suffer from these or any similar disorders, but these traits aren’t marks on an imbalance of character, they’re based on a slight imbalance of our chemistry. For some of us, something as simple and wonderful as happiness is a struggle. This is a tough world for even the most capable of us, but a simple and even a basic understanding of mental health issues can save lives.

Maybe that understanding would have saved my friend Aaron’s life, or my friend Eric’s. Maybe it would have saved Mr. Hoffman’s.

Our mental health shouldn’t be something we’re ashamed of and re-starting this conversation might help end the stigma around it.

We were lucky enough to live in a world with Philip Seymour Hoffman for a little while.  He left us with his work and we’re lucky to have it. That work and our memories of him are ours forever.

For a little peak into his mind, here’s his rather beautiful outlook on happiness.  

Video via blank on blank. 

Here's Heath Ledger on Communication.

There’s nothing that fascinates me more than a creative mind and these PBS Digital “Blank on Blank” interviews give us a little insight into the intellect of some of the most artistically inspirational minds we’ve ever known.

Their words have always been relevant, but “Blank on Blank” has given new life to these lost interviews with 20th century icons, some of whom are tragically no longer with us.

Their wisdom is priceless and these are worth a watch.

Here’s the late Heath Ledger on "COMMUNICATION." .


"People generally express more in between their sentences, when they're not speaking. Words generally are a disguise of who someone is or what they're feeling. Sometimes words are too complicated and they over-intellectualize moments. They're red herrings."


Check out the full archive on the Blank on Blank You Tube page.

Via Blank on Blank. 

Being great again

Canada day was yesterday and on Facebook, I posted the following… “I love you Canada, but you could be better.

Surprisingly, I got a few private messages after posting the status update. Some saying I was being unpatriotic, one saying simply “Canada is the greatest”, while others suggested that Social Media was a poor place to express my political or personal opinions.

I love Canada dearly but you cannot deny that we’ve let the foundations of our country slip through the cracks and the messages that showed up in my inbox outlined one of the biggest problems that our (once) incredible country faces.

Right now, our country is doing a shitty job and people aren’t paying attention.

Remember when we established an environmental precedent the world over and countries all across the globe looked at us with respect and admiration for the standard we had set? When we protected our land?

Remember when the cultural practices and traditions of First Nations people actually meant something to this country? At one point, we were making actual progress in our relationship with Canada’s aboriginal population. Remember?

I miss those times.

I miss holding my head a little higher when I tell people where I’m from. I want people to look to us with wonder and amazement again. I want to be held in high regard when it comes to how careful and considerate we are to our minorities and to our citizens suffering from mental illness. I want to be held in that forgotten reverence that I used to feel when I could brag about how safe I felt living in Canada.

I miss when our government stood for something.

Canadian democracy hinges on our freedom of speech and right now our government is taking that away. It’s taking over public broadcasting right in front of our faces. Just look at the CBC cutbacks. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was once the cultural core of Canada and you might not miss it now, but you will, and by then it may be too late. The “defunding” of the CBC is a huge problem and trust me, the cutbacks gouge much deeper than just losing Hockey Night in Canada.

This is about losing our voice.

Why aren’t we asking questions anymore? Why aren’t we paying attention? For Fuck’s sake, why aren’t we voting?

It’s up to us to make this country great again. If you really love Canada, then start paying more attention to what’s wrong with it.CF

Flogging A Dead Horse

Alicia Silverstone really is Clueless.Another Celebrity with absolutely zero medical qualifications is offering up some more misinformation on vaccines and vaccine safety. "There is increasing anecdotal evidence from doctors who have gotten distressed phone calls from parents claiming their child was "never the same" after receiving a vaccine" A doctor receiving phone calls from distressed and concerned parents, is in NO way evidential. Outbreaks, similar to the ones we’ve seen all over North America these last few years are becoming more and more commonplace in today’s world and it’s due, in part to shit like this floating around the internet. Please do your own research. And maybe stop getting your news from ABC morning shows and places like Indiwire. Vaccinations are not dangerous.

Wag Your Tail

As an artist (and I’m sure many of you can relate to this,) I’m full of self doubt. I want so badly to do a good job. It’s hard to let go of that “have to make a good impression” feeling and leaving all my hang-ups “in the room” has never been easy. I had a great finish to the end of 2013. In December, I booked a few days on a big TV show, few commercials. Finished off the year feeling positive and very much in love. Rad.

The other day, I was walking to an audition. The sun was out but it was cold. I’d had two too many coffees and even though I was confident that I had done the work, I was in a bit of a panic and full of that self-doubt that plagues me all too often. In those few short blocks on the way to that session, the anxiety in my head had eventually convinced me that it was career change time.

Then I walked by the dog park.

There was this dog there. A beautiful young dark shepherd mix with tuffs of brown in his fur, white paws and a lighter nose. It was there with this woman… the owner, I’m assuming. She had another dog there too. A big old golden retriever with a limp and a gentle face. She called him Linus. He was dragging behind a bit but caught up eventually. Those dogs were solid friends.

The lady ruffled around in her pockets and quickly the dogs sat at her feet. It was either a treat or a ball in there. It was a ball. She threw it as hard as she could with one of those dog-ball-whippy-thrower things, and that ball FLEW. The shepherd took off, tail wagging and was almost under the ball before it hit the ground. Linus had no chance, but he tried and he ran as fast as his old years and bummed leg would let him.

This happened over and over and over and I’m sure Linus knew that he was never getting that ball. The other dog was just WAY too fast. The shepherd would drop it every couple of throws and give Linus a chance to pick it up for a second and have a good old drooling chew and then Linus would drop it again and let the lady throw it. Sure enough, the shepherd would beat Linus to the ball again.

The thing is though, and the thing that struck me the most, was that Linus’ tale was wagging too. He fucking loved it. That shepherd would be on his way back with a disgusting grassy ball in his mouth and Linus would hobble a few meters up to him and give him a bark and a playful nudge. He was having fun. There was something going on in between those flapping old ears, something in his brain amidst all the thoughts of squirrels and dog bones and mud and mailmen and treats.

There was hope.

There was something in that skull telling him that maybe one time, maybe just once, he'd get to that ball first.

It was a good 6 or 7 minutes that I stood there and I might have looked a little weird on that cold corner smiling at those dogs, but I went to that audition wearing that same smile. I had been calmed.  Grounded and mentally realigned by Linus, the dog.

I realized that even though this work is hard sometimes, we should always have hope and we should always have fun. Even when we’re up against shepherds, our tales should always be wagging. 

Just a thought. Thanks for reading.

Ed and Derence

I know I don't blog all that much anymore, but I'm trying to make a concerted effort to this year. This was something that I couldn't let sit. I'll try and post this video but for now, here's the link to the original youtube clip. Take a minute, give it a quick watch. Read this, and please pass this message on. RT it or just tell someone.

This is Derence Kernek and Ed Watson. Derence and Ed had been together 40 years. Much longer than most marriages and certainly longer than any Kardashain. Ed was diagnosed with Alzheimer's years ago and the two wanted to get married before the onset of the more serious mental stages of this crippling disease. Sadly, the stay on Proposition 8 was never lifted and Ed passed away (I'm sure with his hand in his loving partner's) before he had the chance to marry the love of his life. Before he even had the chance. These men were denied the opportunity to have their love recognized. Say that back to yourself. Denied the opportunity to have their love recognized. It disgusts me that theocratic policies are still commonplace in today's world. It disgusts me that minorities rights aren't protected, and held close. I can't watch this video without crying. I certainly couldn't imagine a world where the love I felt for another person wasn't recognized by a "state." I am so beyond thankful that I was raised in a home where it was taught to me that people's rights were not to be, and SHOULD NOT EVER be denied to anyone. To my friends in the US: Rick Santorum's Evangelical campaign revolves around hatred and inequality. He not only opposes gay marriage, but he strongly opposes the legal recognition of ANY same sex union. He wants to forcibly divorce any same sex couple that has been married over the last 10 years. He wants to reinstate DADT and ban same sex couples from adopting. His campaign runs on so-called "family values," however, the family values I grew up on, didn't deny me my rights to love anyone. To me, the fact that he calls this platform "Family Based" just bastardizes the word "family." We shouldn't forget that this man also thinks the world is only 5000 years old, has a "drill everywhere" policy for oil, is anti-abortion and thinks Global Warming is just a "junk science." Just please don't vote for this man. I don't ever want to think that this world could move so far backwards in time and elect a man like this into power. Pass this on if you can....

We're all supposed to have things we're passionate about.  One of the things that I'm passionate about is trying my hardest to ensure that everyone has the same rights that I do.  The same rights as a privileged, educated, heterosexual caucasian male of an - at least mostly -sound mind, living in western society.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this.  It's something I feel so strongly about.

Thank you, Sincerely. - Dan