‘I get to use this poison as someone else’s medicine’
Michael Landsberg was sporting green hockey tape in support of Petrolia Minor Hockey’s Face Off For Mental Health. He was at the Victoria Playhouse Tuesday sharing his personal experience living with depression and anxiety. (Melissa Schilz/Postmedia Network)
Michael Landsberg was in Petrolia Tuesday, sharing his personal experiences living with depression and anxiety. The founder of Sick Not Weak is known for his career in sports broadcasting, but said his work in the mental health field is what drives him the most.
“This is by far my greatest joy, professionally,” the long-time sports broadcaster with TSN said. “Sports for most people is a distraction from life… this is the thing that people look to be distracted from, and now I get to talk about it.”
Landsberg called his struggle with mental health a poison in his life, but said he’s turned that poison into someone else’s medicine, one he hopes will help to save lives. His goal is to help people feel comfortable in sharing their own story.
Landsberg has been a Toronto resident all his life but said he would rather visit communities like Petrolia where he believes his message will make an impact. Larger cities are anonymous, he explained – someone could die by suicide just five blocks away and you would never hear of that tragedy. But in a small town, the community comes together in the face of tragedy.
“I would rather go to a small town,” he said. “I think the message resonates way more in a smaller community.”
In recent years, Petrolia has come together to raise money in support of mental health, and the Central Lambton Family Health Team has worked to bring in more services – particularly for youth in need.
Landsberg was brought to Petrolia through a joint effort between St. Clair Child and Youth Services and Petrolia Minor Hockey, two of several local organizations dedicated to bringing to the forefront conversations about suicide and mental health.
Landsberg said he doesn’t hold back when talking to a room full of people; he said he wants to expose as much of himself as possible, but doesn’t think that makes him brave. Taking about his mental health has been easy for him, but he knows that’s not the case for everyone.
“The more vulnerable I make myself, the more useful I make myself,” he said. “It’s easy for me to do and it’s really beneficial for other people… it’s like, shame on me if I don’t do it.”
Landsberg said he wants to be relatable, especially for young people. Being the guy on television who sometimes came off as cocky or arrogant lets people know that mental health can affect anyone, and there’s no need to be ashamed or embarrassed, he said.
“When you’re young, you don’t really know what it is that you’re experiencing,” he said. “You’ve lived so little; you don’t know what’s normal.”
He said if he can get just one young person to come forward with their internal struggle to a parent, teacher or other trusted individual, he’s done his job.
“I want to teach that sharing is an acquired skill, the first time you do it is so difficult,” he said. “But if you never do it, then you’re always going to have to carry this secret around… so share once and I promise you, the second time will be easier.”