By Bradley Collins
Feb. 28, 2017
Mark Henick remembers the day he wanted to die. He was 12 years old.
He walked into a food-service kitchen at his school.
The teacher turned around and saw him standing in the doorway.
“What do you want?” she asked.
“I want a long straight-edged knife,” Henick said.
He noticed her discomfort.
“I’m making a cake in class,” he said.
She directed him to the knives in the back room.
Henick reached into a rusty old apple juice can. It had five or six knives in it.
He pulled out the one he wanted. It was an eight-inch long chef’s knife.
“This is the one,” he thought.
Henick shared stories about his own issues with mental health and the challenges the modern health care system faces in dealing with them with about 250 students at Holland College on Feb. 28 in the Florence Simmons Hall in Charlottetown.
Henick is currently the youngest-ever board member for the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Daniel Cousins knows how mental health issues can affect young people, especially in college-aged students.
He’s the chairman of the Holland College mental health chapter of www.jack.org. It’s a website for a national network of young leaders trying to transform the way people think about mental health.
The first time these students are out in the world, they’re learning who they are and learning how to be themselves. It’s a hard lesson, Cousins said.
“You have to learn to like it and embrace it.”
We don’t want to admit we have flaws. It’s viewed as being damaged. If you go to the doctor with a broken arm, it’s normal, he said.
“Admitting mental health issues is considered bravery, but it shouldn’t be. It should be normal. We should encourage people to do it.”
After Henick grabbed the knife, he left the room and put it in his bag. He started wandering around the hallways.
He walked by the guidance counsellor’s office. The counsellor asked Henick to come into his tiny office.
“What’s up?” the counsellor asked.
Henick wasn’t really talking much.
“What’s wrong?” the counsellor asked.
“I can’t do this anymore,” Henick said.
“What do you mean?” asked the counsellor.
Henick put down his bag. He leaned over and pulled out the knife.
The counsellor pulled back.
“I can’t do this anymore,” he said again.
Henick grabbed the blade of the knife so hard he felt it cutting into his palm.
Blood ran down his wrist. Henick pointed the knife at his jugular.
He took a deep breath and pushed the knife into his throat.
The counsellor grabbed Henick’s wrist.
They both fell to the floor with the counsellor on top of him.
The counsellor got up. Henick stayed on the floor.
The counsellor called the principal.
“ Mark Henick just tried to kill himself.”
When the principal got there, they stood him up, smuggled him downstairs to the parking lot and put him into a rusty old Toyota Corolla.
They rushed him to the hospital.
All the way to the hospital Henick thought about jumping out of the car and finishing what he started, he said.
“But I was exhausted.”
When Henick arrived at the hospital, he wasn’t an urgent case, so they made him wait.
It was his first experience with the mental health system, he said.
“I waited there for 14 hours.”