I BEAT DEPRESSION: A former Laker talks about how he escaped the darkest period of his life

In his early 20s, Kyle Dupont had already compiled a list of accomplishments that would make any parent's chest swell with pride.

With a university degree and a Mann Cup championship with the Peterborough Lakers under his belt, he was by all accounts, a successful guy. He had a circle of friends to fill his Friday nights with and his love for the game led to a stint on a professional lacrosse team in Chicago. Still, he describes the time in his life as a "black hole."

It was in the midst of completing a minor in politics that Mr. Dupont realized something wasn't right. He knew how success was supposed to feel, but he didn't feel it. He was self-medicating with drugs and alcohol and holing himself in his room to escape. Years later, he would learn he was suffering from depression.

Five years later, to be precise, life is good.

It took two hospital admissions -- one that lasted 30 days -- and a mixture of therapy and medication for Mr. Dupont to feel like himself again. Now, after obtaining a journalism degree, he does communications work for the Canadian Mental Health Association. While he doesn't do clinical work in his role, he's confident he'll find ways to give back. Recently, at a youth mental health summit, Mr. Dupont recounted his experience with mental illness to Grade 7, 8 and 9 students, who weren't shy to ask him questions about the dark period of his life.

He's open to sharing.

Mr. Dupont was a student at Brock University when his symptoms started interfering with, well, everything. He'd already earned a degree in history and was working away at courses on politics when his parents began voicing concerns from back in Peterborough.

"My mom kept asking me 'What's going on? Are you alright?'" he says.

He wasn't.

"I just hated myself and everything going on," he says. "Just never knowing what I was going to do next was very upsetting. I had kind of lost myself. I couldn't be happy for myself or proud for myself."

Mr. Dupont says he distanced himself from his friends at university as he coped with the loss of freedom that came hand-in-hand with moving back home. He started cutting himself to alleviate his mental anguish and spent 30 days as an inpatient at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre. He would later revisit the hospital after overdosing on sleeping pills following a night of drinking.

While at the hospital, Mr. Dupont began seeing a psychiatrist -- a significant step in the right direction, he says. He also began seeing a psychologist, who gave him tools to change how he saw himself and how he approached his life.

"It was a place I could really feel comfortable," he says, adding using medication alone is an effective treatment for some, but he's glad he got involved in talk therapy.

When asked about how his relationship with drugs and alcohol changed throughout his treatment, he says dealing with mental illness and addiction is often a "chicken coming before the egg" scenario. He didn't have too much trouble kicking the drugs, he says. It was his drinking habits which took longer to address.

Eventually, he says, he was able to admit to himself it was a problem.

"I was just getting to that point where I needed to address what was going on," he says.

Looking back, Mr. Dupont can see how his condition hurt the people around him, who cared about him most.

"When you're in it, you just don't think about it," he says. "You lose who you are."

Mr. Dupont smiles when asked how he thinks of himself now.

"I'm definitely a happier person," he says. "I definitely know more about myself."

In the spirit of Mental Health Week, Mr. Dupont is donning a T-shirt to tell the world "I beat depression." He hopes the move will encourage others not to be ashamed or try to hide a mental illness.

"It's out of your hands," he says, adding it's important to let someone know you're looking for help. "One phone call -- that can start the whole process."

This story first appeared in Peterborough This Week on May 8, 2013 and was written by reporter Sarah Frank.  To access the online version of this publication, please click HERE.