by DREW HOWARD
Following the sudden death of a local middle school student, Rochester Hills City Council member Jenny McCardell is speaking out on her struggles with addiction and depression in an effort to help others.
During the council’s latest meeting on Monday, November 12, McCardell read a prepared speech detailing her decade-long battle with suicidal thoughts and alcoholism. McCardell said she hopes her story will inspire others like her in the community to reach out for help.
“I first realized I was depressed after leaving the U.S. Navy in 2008,” McCardell said. “I remember looking around at my life thinking, ‘my life is so great right now. I’m healthy, my toddlers are healthy, we have food and shelter, so why do I no longer want to be here?’”
For the first time in her life, McCardell decided to seek mental health treatment through therapy and medication at the VA. Sharing her struggles with others helped her build a strong support network, she said, and eventually down a road of sobriety.
“In November 2013 I decided to finally quit drinking,” McCardell said. “I was at the point where I would either quit drinking or continue to drink and lose everything and probably die,” McCardell said. “These last five years have been the best years of my life.”
McCardell stressed the importance of creating a support network of family, friends, and mental health specialists. Her network was critical to her mental health earlier this year, she said, when she faced some of the toughest battles in her personal life.
“In March 2018, I was in a very dark place. There’s no way to completely describe this except to say that I felt that there was no purpose in me living on this Earth, that there was nothing ahead of me or behind me.”
“I was suicidal and ready to take my own life, but I held on,” she continued. “I reached out to my support networks that I had built for this very moment in my life. I was able to drive over to my sponsor’s house, my recovery connection, and she was able to keep me alive.”
Eight months later, McCardell is the happiest she’s ever been. She concluded her speech with a rallying cry to treat others with kindness reevaluate our thoughts around depression.
“It is each and every one of our responsibilities to break the stigma that depression limits your life and success. My mental illness and addictive personality are a part of what makes me who I am, and I’m proud of that.”
“I encourage everyone in this community to be proud of who you are, to share your story so we can be a more inclusive community where people here not only survive, but thrive.”
Those struggling with mental health issues can find local resources online at oakgov.com under the Community Health Resources page.