Depression Didn’t Get Rick Hallson, Cigarettes Did!

A while back I published what some may have considered to be a somewhat controversial Blog which was about 3 friends of mine who it turned out suffered from depression. Most people though claimed it was one of my more sensitive Blogs and very unlike most of my usual egotistical rants but either way I received more comments about this Blog than any other I have ever written. Also I received a surprise e mail which inspired me to revisit the subject.
Up until a few years ago I’d only heard rumors about the existence of depression because of it being so well hidden. I was surprised by a few comments like the one that came from my good friend Gary Russell. Gary’s Father was a very successful businessman but according to Gary suffered from depression for most of his career and finally had to retire at an early age. Some how though found the strength to fight his way through it and even started a whole new career again when he moved to British Columbia. Gary’s story made me think back about what it was like growing up around my Father and I never realized until now that he too may have been suffering from depression. Back then whatever he had was referred to as some kind of nervous disorder that was treated with something called nerve pills. All I know is that whatever he had caused a lot of fun plans to be cancelled because he would be too sick to participate in them. The memories I have of my Father are unfortunately mostly ones of disappointment like proudly flying home for Christmas one year shortly after becoming a Program Director for the first time and very excited about the fact that my Dad was picking me up and I could share with him the good news that I had recieved my first raise already. When we landed there to greet me was my brother in law Ronnie who explained my Dad was once again not feeling well so he couldn’t pick me up. Those kinds of things happened so often that still to this day I don’t have much sympathy for sickness of any kind but I wish I had known back then what he was going through because maybe we would have had a much better relationship. My Mother used to tell us that Dad would be feeling much.
My Father lived a Jekyll and Hyde existence which my Brother Reg claimed became even worse after I had left home. My friend Jim Quail would often say to me,”It must be great living at your place” because out in public Sandy Johns (pictured) had him and others rolling in the aisles with all the jokes he used to tell. My answer to Jim was … Yeah Right!
Jed Duval commented that our long time production whiz at WIBC TJ Byers also suffered from depression for most of his life and eventually took his own life. After reading many sad comments like that I’ve figured out that maybe a lot of our radio brothers who we thought of as strange at the time, may have been in fact suffering from depression and I believe the more we talk about it, write about it, and bring it out into the open, the more chances there may be that some skilled and qualified people will find a better way to deal with it.

My original Blog was about 3 guys from Winnipeg, Rick Hallson, Bill Wakeman and Billie Gorrie whom I had no idea were suffering from depression. They like my Father hid it well in public. I recieived an e mail from Rick Hallson who at the time was the only survivor of the three about depression, but even though depression didn’t succeed in getting him, cigarettes did. Rick told me that when he worked at CHUM a mutual friend of ours, J Robert Wood used to drive him home and every time he would light a cigarette up J Bob would tell him that those things are gonna kill you. He said that J Robert turned out to be right because in fact he was dying and now I am sad to report he is gone. RIP Rick and in your honor I reprint your e mail about your first hand experience with depression.

 

Hello George,

I think the last time we talked was 1963 when Sandy Koufax won the MVP award in that years’ World Series. Maybe that’s going back a little far but it’s in the ballpark.I was directed to your website last night by Ken Porteous, an old CHUMer and lifelong friend. He found news of the death of Bill Gorrie. I am shocked and saddened to hear about Bill’s demise by suicide. Bill, Ken, and I were just three on a long list of Silver Heights Collegiate grads who were drawn to radio in the early sixties, primarily by the dynamic CKY talent with jocks such as Jimmy Darrin, J. Robert Wood, Chuck Dann and the amazing on-air execution. ‘KY was huge and working at the station for me, being barely 17, was a gift.

Bill Gorrie was kind, gentle, supportive, humorous, upbeat, flexible, honest, to name a few. That was my experience with him during the time I worked at CKRC. I guess that’s why I was so shocked at leaning about his suicide. That just doesn’t fit with what I knew of him, his character, his comfortable drive and his kindness toward others. But then, someone who lives with chronic depression lives two lives. One is hidden deep within while the other part struggles to live with a sense of normalcy. I know because I have lived that. I attempted suicide three years ago. I don’t know what Bill’s issues were but in my case, I carried my issues as far as I could–until August 28, 2008. My demons had won. I was completely surprised when I woke up 26 hours later and it was shortly after waking up, when I became somewhat lucid that I realized I was getting a second chance at life. Since then, I have used my experience and skills as a two-decade professional speaker to advocate for mental wellness and the rights of those who are affected by mental illness. (That’s a long way from executing a dynamic intro sitting on the edge of the jock chair in front of a mic in the control room.)

Could Bill have been swayed in the parking lot the night of the CKRC reunion party? No one will ever know. A couple of months after my suicide attempt and release from the psych ward, I became certified in suicide intervention so that I could better understand suicide and perhaps help others in crisis. One who deals with chronic depression feels shame and a sense of hopelessness, every day. It never leaves. There is no relief. Stigma is a huge issue. Stigma is embedded in our health care system—even within the silo of mental health. I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. It’s there in all its ugliness. Bill’s pain is gone. May he rest in peace. What a shame. What a loss.

I did write a book about my experience with my suicide attempt. It sits in a folder on my computer. I’ve never sent it to a publisher for consideration. I’m not sure why but I had to write it for the sake of writing it. Please let me share a few lines from the book with you and your readers. “Within weeks of my release from the hospital after my suicide attempt, I attended a suicide survivors gathering. It’s an annual event staged for family and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide. Speakers addressed an audience of about 150, relating their personal stories: anguish, guilt, fear, hurt, anger, frustration, pain; stories that rang so loud it was deafening; Oh how they wish they could turn back the clock and perhaps change an outcome. As the ceremony continued, I became so profoundly aware of what I had done, as never before, and even in my survival, how I had hurt the people who loved and cared for me. I stood in a back corner of the room watching and listening to the stories one after another, trying to keep my crumbling composure in check. It was so hard to be there. As I walked away after the final prayer from the podium, I came to a decision to write my book. I need to write it for my own sake: fifty years of dealing with my personal demons had almost cost me my existence. It had to end. If telling my story helps even a single human being from taking that final step—suicide, then it is worth every word.”

Like so many others, I will remember Bill Gorrie.

Take care George.

Rick Hallson htp://www.richardhallson.net

Winnipeg

8 thoughts on “Depression Didn’t Get Rick Hallson, Cigarettes Did!

  1. Geo,
    I’ve had associates get pissed at me and in some cases mock me for defending gay co-workers or for simply telling them to cut the bullshit comments about gays and lesbians. Here’s why I do.

    In my high school there was an obviously gay kid in the class ahead of me. He was bright, out going and had considerable musical talents. He was always being taunted in the halls. I was an active participant in the abuse that ranged from shitty comments to physical attacks. The teachers did nothing about it. I knew he also took alot of abuse at home from his Dad, his old man was an ex-marine and was a genuine asshat, I know that from personal experience because he was my grade school principal. He abusive, condescending with a nice turn of cruelity.

    When the class ahead of us graduated in June of 1962 on a beautifull sunny day, most of them went to celebrate with their families and later the new grads partied. The gay kid went home and hung himself from an Elm tree in his family’s back yard.

    After I heard the news the next day, my girl friend and I went to Riverside Park and sat by the dam for hours, she had sung in the chorus and done musicals with him and I
    had been in an English Lit class with him. We were both so sad and I was so ashamed of the way I (and my friends) had treated him. After I had the class with him, I stopped participating in the abuse, but said nothing to those who did and I realized I should have. I was weak and a coward to not try and stop it.

    I think back now to the Lane and David incident at WKLB and I wish Donny would have had a Mike Moran to stand up for him and say “hey you fat bastard, you want a piece of this faggot!” He could have used the support.

    B

    • Well said Bobby. Funny how we didn’t raise are kids to act like we acted, I guess none of us were very proud of the way we lived when we were young otherwise we would have passed it on.

  2. I have never experienced cronic depression but lived with someone who did. It’s hard to understand at first because it seems to the laymen ( It doesn’t make sense ) it’s not till a person matures in age and is more understanding do you realize it is a sickness and a horrible one at that. I personally am heartly sorry I never really understood depression. No one really talked about it but I knew Billy Wakeman and was shocked to here how he ended his life. Kelly Richter, Barry Rodgers to name a few who took there lives because of a depression. They should teach this subject in all schools and perhaps others lives will be saved and cured . Thank’s George for sharing this with me.

    • What I’m shocked about Bill is I just now am finding out about how many people we knew that were suffering from this and I for one had no idea. Of course growing up in Transcona sure didn’t help, you would die before you would show anybody something that may look like a weakness.

  3. George,

    Through my association with the Wizard Academy (Wizard of Ads, Roy Williams), I came to know Russell Friedman. Russell along with his partner, John James, run the Grief Recovery Institute and have published one of the best books on the subject of grief and depression I’ve ever read. Here’s a link to it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Grief-Recovery-Handbook-Anniversary-Expanded/dp/0061686077/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318702719&sr=1-1

    No one truly knows the shoes another is walking in.

    Dick

  4. Geo, I am grateful that you and your readers are sharing these important stories. I too understand from personal experience the intense struggle with depression – long story short, my life changed forever about 15 years ago when I found a doctor who listened and a medication that liberated me. Prior to that, it was only by the grace of God and the most loving man in the world that I managed to balance “acting” creative and happy and intelligent to the world, while “being” fragile, sad, and feeling like a fake. I can understand that sometimes the pressure of “acting” your life could be too much… I am thankful everyday for the care and understanding I received and try now to be love and compassion for others because we don’t know their struggles.
    Thanks for raising and facilitating this important discussion, especially among the creative and artistic community who may have a greater share of this “dis-ease” than most.
    All the best,
    Sh

    • Sharon, I think that is so good that you got help rather than just trying to live with it. I am amazed to now learn how many people I know and have known over the years have what ever this is. You must have been all great actors because none of you seemed depressed to me. Most of the time I was wishing I was having as good a time as all of you seemed to be having(-: I guess he who laughs the loudest may be the saddest of all.

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