mental health | May 30, 2013

Sick, Not Weak: Michael Landsberg's Mental Health Cover Story In Vista

When Michael Landsberg first took to the keynote circuit as a mental health speaker, people were surprised to learn that the charismatic host of TSN's Off The Record has been battling depression. While he admits that it can be difficult to admit you are struggling with an illness—and even more difficult to be comfortable talking about it—Landsberg says doing so has become an important part of his life. This month, he was featured in a cover story in the Canadian health magazine Vista. He discussed how he was eventually able to publicly admit that he suffered from depression, and why talking about it is so important.

"My single biggest blessing is my ability to talk about my own mental illness and, therefore, impact other people’s lives," Landsberg tells Vista. "Probably two dozen people have told me that I’ve saved their lives. I say that with total humility. I have a mental illness, so I can relate, and I get platforms made available to me." He explains that it's important to talk about the issue because it helps to lift the stigma that surrounds mental illness. When people come forward and discuss it without feeling ashamed or uncomfortable, it empowers others to do the same. And, helps them feel like they are able to get the help that they need without feeling judged. "The three words that I start every speech with are: sick, not weak. Knowing that makes you not worry about the stigma," he explains. "So much of it is how we see ourselves. For me, the greatest power I have is knowing that depression is not my choice or my weakness."

In the interview, Landsberg also provides suggestions on how to share your illness with the people around you. It's important to be honest, to let them know that your condition is not anyone's fault, and that while they can't fix you, they can be supportive and help you through the tough days. While the stigma has lessened over the years, Landsberg says it still exists to a degree and sharing information about the illness can help to lessen it even more. That's the lesson he shares in his customizable keynotes on mental health. He injects a hint of humour into his talks to bring some positivity to a somber subject. While he undoubtedly treats the subject matter as a serious issue, his easy approach to discussing mental health helps the audience feel comfortable "[talking] about mental illness in anything other than hushed tones."