Bay Roberts blog­ger says more needs to be done for men­tal health

The Compass - - Front page - BY CHRIS LEWIS THE COM­PASS

Men­tal health is­sues have put this fa­ther of two out of work, but he hopes to raise aware­ness by writ­ing about his strug­gles in a blog.

Harris Tucker now lives in Bay Roberts with his wife, Lisa, and their two chil­dren, Lo­gan and Lau­ren. The fam­ily orig­i­nally lived in St. John’s, where Harris ran his own hairstyling busi­ness and Lisa worked as a teacher.

Harris says he’s al­ways strug­gled with his men­tal health, hav­ing had episodes of de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety from as young as 16-years-old. How­ever, some time around 2010, Harris was di­ag­nosed with se­vere anx­i­ety and clin­i­cal de­pres­sion, and says that the stresses of life be­came too much. He had to leave his ca­reer and busi­ness be­hind.

“The stress just kept build­ing and build­ing,” ex­plained Harris. “When I was younger, in my teens and early adult years, I could han­dle it. I’d have an episode here and there where it got pretty bad, but it was never enough for me to quit my job or any­thing like that. But now, ever since be­ing clin­i­cally di­ag­nosed, I’m too ill to work. It’s no longer just an episode here and there – it’s ev­ery day.”

Harris’ daugh­ter, Lau­ren, is four-years-old, and suf­fers from cere­bral palsy, a dis­or­der that ef­fects mus­cle tone, move­ment and mo­tor skills.

Since his own diagnosis, Harris has been writ­ing in an on­line blog called ‘The Life & Times of the Tuck­ers’ on Har­ris­lisa72. com, where he shares his own life sto­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences. At first, the blog was about his own strug­gles in deal­ing with his men­tal health is­sues, but since Lau­ren’s diagnosis with cere­bral palsy, the blog has ex­panded into Harris’ strug­gles as a men­tally ill fa­ther with a phys­i­cally disabled daugh­ter.

Harris told The Com­pass that deal­ing with his anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion, as well as Lau­ren’s cere­bral palsy, has taken a toll on the fam­ily as a whole. Lisa no longer teaches, as the Tuck­ers are con­stantly in and out of places like the Janeway Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal, and han­dling both men­tal health as well as phys­i­cal health is­sues as a fam­ily has proven to be a tax­ing process.

Harris re­ceives around $1,000 a month from dis­abil­ity in­surance, and Lisa re­ceives em­ploy­ment in­surance. Harris says that this level of in­come is not nearly enough to sus­tain a fam­ily of four, es­pe­cially when it comes to the costs re­lated to their health.

As a re­sult, the Tuck­ers can only af­ford to put Lau­ren in day­care three days a week. Dur­ing the rest of the week, Lau­ren re­quires at least one of her par­ents to be by her side at all times, ul­ti­mately adding to the list of rea­sons Harris or Lisa can’t main­tain steady em­ploy­ment.

Harris said the fam­ily has re­lied on crowd fund­ing ser­vices such as Go­fundme to help cover costs of some things, such as a wheel­chair ac­ces­si­ble van for Lau­ren, but adds that the fam­ily re­fuses to live their lives re­ly­ing on other peo­ple’s money.

“It’s not the re­spon­si­bil­ity of our neigh­bors, or friends, or peo­ple in the com­mu­nity to pay for the things we need,” ex­plained Harris as he sat in the fam­ily room of the Janeway. “At the end of the day, we’re at a point in our life where he can’t work. I’m not men­tally ca­pa­ble or work­ing, and we’ve got so much to han­dle that Lisa is no longer teach­ing, ei­ther. But we need more money in or­der to sur­vive, but the govern­ment just doesn’t seem to be will­ing to try and un­der­stand that.”

Harris went on to air his frus­tra­tions, men­tion­ing pre­vi­ous con­ver­sa­tions he’s had with govern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives who were un­able to pro­vide him with the help he needed.

“I fi­nally got a call back from one lady the other day,” said Harris, “who told me that they could help me put Lau­ren in day­care for an ex­tra two days a week. That sounded great. But, then she told me it was go­ing to cost us some­where around $800 a month. We can’t af­ford things like that, not with our cur­rent in­come, and then we’re right back to square one.”

De­spite their sit­u­a­tion, Harris hopes his blog posts can help raise aware­ness of the strug­gles peo­ple suf­fer­ing with men­tal ill­ness face on a daily ba­sis. Harris is look­ing to help put an end to the stigma he says suf­fer­ers of men­tal ill­ness have to bat­tle.

“I’m not re­ally a writer. I couldn’t write a book, even if peo­ple tell me I should,” said Harris. “But I have been through a lot, and I know there are other peo­ple out there strug­gling in the same way.

“We need to end the stigma sur­round­ing men­tal health. Peo­ple need help, and they de­serve that help, rather than be­ing given the bare min­i­mum. If our blog can help raise aware­ness for that, then we’ve ac­com­plished our goal.”

“The stress just kept build­ing and build­ing.”

Harris Tucker

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The Tucker fam­ily has been through some tough times in re­cent years, and Harris (left) hopes his blog can help raise aware­ness for men­tal health. Pic­tured (from left) are Harris, Lo­gan, Lau­ren and Lisa Harris.

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