Winston Churchill, among others, used the term Black Dog to describe the depression he used to suffer from. Depression can be a horrific illness and today it claimed a young former Saskatchewan Conservative MP named Dave Batters.
Dave didn't run in the last election because he was trying to beat this beast back. At 39 he lost a tough fight to a force far stronger than any partisan opponent.
I got to know Dave a little when he was an MP. He was a warm, energetic and well-meaning fellow. Two years ago I had the pleasure of spending time with him and his family at the 2007 Juno Awards in Saskatoon. Like many sufferers of mental illness he appeared healthy on the surface and showed great exuberance at having a terrific national event in his beloved home province.
On this tough day, after what has no doubt been a rocky road, the Batters' family has shown tremendous courage in sharing Dave's battle with the rest of the country. One hopes your guts will continue to advance the war against the Black Dog and lessen his bite.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in a statement just released about Dave's tragic death, said this:
"Dave ultimately lost his struggle with severe depression, but we should use his loss as a reminder that mental health illnesses affect Canadians in every walk of life. Too often Canadians, such as Dave, suffer in silence out of fear of being stigmatized for their illness."
Good also for the Prime Minister in picking up the baton handed to him by the Batters family and speaking directly to all those Canadians, and their families, who have walked and continue to walk in Dave's shoes.
Dave Batter's may have been a Tory MP but we can all best serve his memory by being mindful that more public policy work and front line medical help for unseen mental illness is something that knows no partisan line and must happen.
Today though we all mourn a young man who left us far too early.