Marcel is what mental health workers call a "survivor."
The grey-haired, 55-year-old Gananoque-area resident, a member of the depression recovery support group at the Leeds and Grenville Rehabilitation and Counselling Services, speaks with difficulty, slowly and with frequent pauses. His eyes are lowered, his hands shake and he works nervously with his pen on the plastic cap of his open pop bottle as he recounts some of the horrific incidents that caused his illness.
Other members of the group take fewer than five minutes to outline some of the experiences that triggered their depressions. Marcel, whose every sentence feels like a crippled runner's heroic attempt to complete a full mile, takes more than an hour.
The other members of the small depression group, which meets at the former Brockville Friendship Centre, are riveted by Marcel's story. It's easy to understand why someone in his shoes would prefer silence.
Both his parents drank and frequently beat him.
On one occasion, after an act of boyish mischief, he ended up naked in a snowbank outside his home and had to be taken in by a neighbour.
At age four, his mother left him standing alone on a railway platform in Chicoutimi, Quebec. Later in his youth, he ran away from home, hitchhiking in the snow until his feet froze. Still later, after he reunited with his father, the cycle of violence resumed. In his life, Marcel has endured beatings so severe he could only crawl away from them.
This is one of the triggers of depression - experiences so traumatic they are literally painful to remember. The body and mind shut down under such a barrage.
A younger member of the group, which used to meet at the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital (BPH) Elmgrove Unit, has similar outward symptoms. He speaks in a...