Will Hudson – a son, a brother, an uncle and a fiancé – lost his life to suicide on July 5, 2016. He was 38. Our family was shocked and devastated as we tried to come to terms with this senseless tragedy. Since then, over the course of the months that followed, we have reflected on Will’s life and struggles to see what we might have done differently, but more importantly, how we might now be able to provide hope to people and families who live with addiction and mental illness.

Many of you knew Will and loved him. He was kind with a big heart, entertaining with a great sense of humor, had an infectious laugh and a “sparkle” that brought him many friends. He was an accomplished tennis player and a gifted guitarist. However, beneath his happy and “normal” side, he battled bipolar depression, addiction, and perhaps worst of all, denial of his illness.

Signs of problems began during Will’s teenage years and continued through college, when he increasingly depended upon stimulant drugs to help with energy and focus. As a young adult entering the commercial real estate field, he managed to work with a prescribed anti-depressant and Adderall for a couple of years until the anti-depressant quit working. His depression then became more problematic and debilitating. Will eventually entered an in-patient drug rehabilitation program and emerged after three months with a plan to manage his depression without the use of stimulant drugs.

Will – and his family too – desperately wanted his struggles to be something else, a problem that could be fixed, not an ongoing condition. He did research, tried various vitamins, attended therapy sessions, and saw countless doctors who prescribed him numerous medications, with none seeming to work in his mind except Adderall.

Mental health professionals will tell you Adderall in combination with alcohol is a dangerous combination for someone suffering from addiction and depression. When abused and not taken properly, Adderall can exacerbate symptoms of depression.

Throughout his early adult life, Will, when using Adderall, wrestled with debilitating episodes of despondency that would affect him both physically and mentally, to the point where he could not leave his bed for days at a time. It was a crippling condition. Regrettably, it was also one his family often struggled to fully understand.

Will committed to stop drinking alcohol in January 2013. He joined AA and benefited tremendously, hoping this would be the solution to his underlying problem. He spent a solid two years committed to recovery and pursuing a healthier lifestyle. He regularly attended AA meetings, avoided alcohol, and stopped using Adderall. He focused on eating healthy, managing sleep and began playing competitive tennis again. In 2016, he eagerly returned to the workplace and eventually got engaged. Will seemed happy and all seemed to be going well until Adderall crept back in his life. In Will’s mind, he needed it to continue feeling well and to achieve his own professional expectations. His abusive use of the drug caused him to once again spiral into major depression. Will fought his battle long and hard for nearly 20 years, but at age 38, he succumbed to the debilitating and sinister disease he could not escape, a disease he struggled to both manage and accept.

Our mission through this foundation is to give hope to those battling addiction and depression, and to help those affected believe and know that, while at times the darkness may be overwhelming, life is always worth living. The journey, though, requires commitment, compliance, and most importantly acceptance. Finally, it is our hope and prayer that the families and friends of those suffering from mental illness will commit to compassion and love and will never lose hope. Above all, rely on your faith to endure and persevere; it is the source of strength each and every day we are all so blessed to have.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: It is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken”.

C.S. Lewis

TAKE A STAND

Ask others to stop promoting stigma and using hurtful language. Keep in mind the best way to stop others from promoting stigma is to educate them about mental health and to let them know how their words and actions hurt others.

EDUCATE YOURSELF

Learn about mental health issues and the devastating effects of stigma. Ask someone who has openly shared about their mental health issues what their experience is like. Knowledge is a powerful tool for dispelling myths and stereotypes. Share your knowledge.

BE AN ALLY

Think of a friend or family member you have been concerned about. Call them to see how they are feeling. If someone you know exhibits sudden changes in behavior or is experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out to them and make every effort to ensure that they get help.

END THE SILENCE

If you have been feeling down, stressed, or anxious, call or meet with a trusted friend or family member and tell them how you are feeling. Remember that when you speak about your experience with mental illness, you give others permission to share their experiences.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

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