Mental health advocate shares story, music

Singer-songwriter Meg Hutchinson, based in Boston, performs last week at the Saccomanno Education Center at St. Mary's Medical Center. She also is a national mental health advocate and spoke of her struggle with depression. It took her almost a decade to seek treatment.

Meg Hutchinson has dealt with mental illness for more than half of her life, but it took more than nine years to realize she was dealing with depression.

Afraid to admit what she was going through, she turned to music. Even as the singer- songwriter's lyrics were a clear cry for help, she would deflect and say the songs were about someone else.

Today, after more than a dozen years of treatment and three hospital says, the Boston-based musician is comfortable talking about her journey through manic depression.

Last week, she visited Grand Junction to share her story and her music as part of an event put together by the Counseling Education Center and St. Mary's Medical Center, along with various sponsors.

Hutchinson played her music and gave two lectures Friday at the Saccomanno Education Center at St. Mary's.

It's the fourth year that a guest speaker has come here to talk about mental health.

"We try to bring in a mental health education person every year," Counseling Education Center Executive Director Christian Mueller said. "We get feedback that there is not a lot of opportunities to get more information on this."

Last year's guest speaker was Kevin Briggs, a California Highway Patrol officer known for suicide prevention, including talking people out of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Mueller said Hutchinson was a good choice as she has a first-person perspective on mental illness. Previous speakers have been first responders and therapists.

Hutchinson said she didn't show any signs of a mood disorder until she was a teenager. Even then, it was nearly a decade until she sought treatment for her depression.

She described her feelings by saying "the joy just slips out of the world slowly. It felt like waking up deep underwater."

A breaking point came in 2006 when she went on tour with three other bands in England and spiraled into what she called a "mixed state." She also got into a negative relationship with a man she met there who followed her back to the U.S.

Eventually, she picked up and moved back home. She said her family was open to talking about suicide, which she said made it easier to find help.

During her talk, she would play songs that lined up with what she was experiencing.

When she started coming out of her depression, she remembers that she started dreaming again.

In one of her first dreams, she was a refugee leaving a war-torn country, which she said felt symbolic.

She said she found a good mix of Western treatments such as medication and meditation to help her cope with tough times. She said last summer was particularly tough, but she was able to get through it.

"I felt like I had trained for it," she said.

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