"Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional."

About Alex Hanna:

Alex is a technologist, poet, and mental health advocate. He founded and runs a mental health website called Challenge the Storm where individuals share their personal stories of struggle and triumph over mental illness. He focuses each day on positively changing one person’s outlook on mental illness.

Alex’s Story

What was the major turning point in your recovery from depression?

For years I struggled in silence. I had emotionally and physically abused myself and continued to spiral out of control. I refused to acknowledge that I needed help. Then, I watched my sister suffer with depression and witnessed so many of the same qualities in myself that I saw in her. I started to suspect that maybe I needed help, too. I could relate far too well with her struggles. I couldn’t stand to see her in such pain. I wanted to help but didn’t know how.

Finally, encouraged by my wife and supported by my family, I took action and did something about my depression. I sought help from professionals and started writing. Writing gave me an outlet that I couldn’t find anywhere else. It gave me a place to fully express what I could not emote.

What are some things that really helped?

Outside help

  • Whether from mental health professionals, family, or friends, having outside help has been critical in my recovery from depression. I am fortunate to have a family who understands and encourages me throughout my recovery.

Finding like-minded people.

  • Since starting a mental health advocacy site, I have been joined by others who have gone through similar struggles as I have. Challenge the Storm has brought me a community of support and inspiration, which I wasn’t able to find anywhere else.

Poetry

  • In 2015, I started writing poetry to express the feelings I was not able to fully understand and could not articulate. Poetry gave me the creative freedom to connect with a side of myself that had been locked up for far too long. It allowed my emotions to flow from pen to paper, without fear of being judged or misunderstood. To share these unfiltered and raw emotions, I published a book featuring several of my original poems called ‘Here It Goes‘.

What advice would you give to other guys fighting depression?

Be your own best advocate. Only you know how you feel. Don’t hide away from what you need because society tells you it isn’t “manly” to ask for help. Find what helps you and commit to it. It takes real strength to admit that you need help and take action. The battle is not easy, but you are strong enough to take on the challenge.

Don’t be afraid to seek the help of a professional, either. While it can seem scary at first, it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. And because you are your own best advocate, don’t shy away from speaking your truth to that professional. You know you better than anyone else will know you, so make sure you get what you need. Don’t settle when it comes to your mental health.

Finally, accept yourself for who you are. You are no lesser of a man because you struggle with depression or any other mental illness. The sooner you accept yourself, the sooner you can begin advocating for yourself. And the sooner you begin advocating for yourself, the sooner you start your road to recovery.

– Alex Hanna, founder of Challenge the Storm, based out of Wilmington, DE, USA.facebook twitter insta