by Tina Cole-Mullins and James Clark-Swalla
In our series exploring mental health and wellness, we have been able to meet everyday people within our community who struggle with and/or manage mental health in one way or another. We spoke of our personal journeys and experience, spoke with a mother and daughter and last month we sat down with Jennifer McClure and Jeff Boyer.
In conclusion, we will continue our conversation with Jeff Boyer. Boyer has been a public figure involved with the community for decades. He is a co-founder of Town Hall Players, Scout leader, soccer and T-ball coach, PTO president, middle school student council adviser and adult education instructor, along with his career as a teacher.
Interview of Jeff Boyer by James Clark-Swalla
Have you struggled with your mental health?
There are many struggles I’ve had that I did not categorize as mental health but found out later it was. Recognizing the problem was the first step for me.
Have you been diagnosed with a psychological disorder?
Yeah, I actually got two different psychiatric tests for depression. They both came up that this guy has depression. I did that several years ago and that’s opened my eyes up. I started seeing someone just because I got to a point where, you know, I needed to see somebody. They gave me some medicine. I didn’t really want to be reliant on medicine to be happy. I did try it a little bit but ended up stopping. I just feel like I want to find activities that make me feel happy. I want to do things that I enjoy, you know.
What are some of the activities you enjoy?
I started creating other magic effects. I actually came up with several different routines for magic tricks. I really had a passion for developing those and then directing plays for the Chelsea players. So doing that stuff was better than taking medicine. I’m not saying no one should do medicine, it’s your personal thing just for me. I felt it was easier to get through hard times by just doing the things I do.
Are these coping mechanisms or distractions?
Hmm, good question… If you’re doing something that you love and you can feel it in your soul and your heart that you’re feeling welcome by people who want you around … that can’t be just a distraction, that’s got to be something that’s helping you heal, because you’re working with your emotions.
Have you or would you talk to somebody about your own mental health needs?
I saw a therapist for several years, which helped me to understand my struggles and how to turn anything into something positive. But back then, I/you just tried to deal with it yourself, also being a male we’re not supposed to cry — that kind of stereotype where men shouldn’t have these problems. And that’s it, that’s a stigma that has to be gone.
What made you start to ask for help?
I didn’t, I had people reach out to me. You know, I had people realize I was going through a hard time and they contacted me every week, two people every week. That slowly helped me to realize wow, OK, these guys really do care and I want to keep talking to them now. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have. I wouldn’t reach out to anybody. I still would have been in my own pool of mental illness not doing anything about it, so it’s good that they did.
As a teacher, what do you think your role is when it comes to the mental health of a student? Or as a director with your actor?
The main thing I can do as a teacher or theater director, in regard to mental health, is to create positive and fun experiences for my students and actors in an atmosphere that invites open conversations.
I’m sure it can be pretty taxing on you mentally, what do you do to recharge?
I don’t take enough time to recharge. I need to do that more often. Sitting outside in the evening listening to the night sounds is a great way for me to recharge.
How do you define stability?
Being able to go through a week and not really break down. Have a hard time sleeping because of something on your mind that you can’t get rid of. If you can go through a week or two and you’re OK with that, you might be.
Would you say you are stable?
I would say I’m more stable now than I have been. There are still things that have happened that hurt my gut that I think sometimes I just have to live with and go OK, that happened, I got to move on.
As we conclude this series we ask: Why is there stigma with mental illness? Why are there still people not asking for help when they need it?
We encourage you to share your stories about your mental health. Your list of ways to take care of yourself mentally. How to avoid self medicating. There is no need to struggle alone.
Please reach out to someone you trust, a friend, a relative. If you suspect someone is struggling, reach out to them and see if you can help or offer support. Contact one of us, make the conversation about mental health normalized, as opposed to stigmatized.
Who knows you may just save a life!
If you may need professional help
- National Institute of Mental Health: 866-615-6464; nimh.nih.gov.
- Mental Health America: 800-969-6642; mhanational.org/.
- Michigan Medicine Depression Center: To make an appointment: 800-525-5188 or 734-764-0231; depressioncenter.org/.
- St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Outpatient Behavioral Health Services: 734-593-5250;
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 offers a 24-hour crisis line; suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
•The Listening Ear in Lansing: 517-337-1717, a 24-hour crisis line; theear.org/.
• Crisis Text Line: Text “Start” to 741-741.