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Musings and Memories

National Mental Health Awareness Month

Doug Dezotell
Posted 5/21/22

The columns I’ve written the past several weeks have been to bring recognition of May as National Mental Health Awareness Month.

For years mental illness has been a hidden disease, not …

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Musings and Memories

National Mental Health Awareness Month


The columns I’ve written the past several weeks have been to bring recognition of May as National Mental Health Awareness Month.

For years mental illness has been a hidden disease, not spoken of, and often kept a family and personal secret.

Nobody wanted to talk about it or admit to suffering with it. Especially if you were a public person… or a Church going person.

But we all need to understand that Christian people are not exempt from mental illness, but we do have a Healer. A Comforter. A Shoulder to cry on. One we can confide in. He is called Wonderful, Counselor and the Prince of Peace.

I know Him as Jesus the Christ. He is my Lord and my Savior.

We can all turn to Jesus as our Counselor.

He understands our ups and downs and He still loves us.

We can find peace in Him because He is the Prince of Peace.

Ever since 1949 the Month of May has been recognized as “Mental Health Awareness Month.”

Millions of Americans from all walks of life suffer with various forms of mental illness, and it is more common than we might realize.

Mental illness has also impacted my own family over the years.

My big brother, Bob Dezotell, was a successful businessman.

He spent his career in the business of hospitality; saving hotels in trouble; managing and renovating hotels and resorts; and owning and operating numerous successful restaurants.

My favorite of Bob’s establishments was Dezotell’s Steak ‘n Stein in my hometown in North Dakota.

He was given the moniker of “The Pineapple Man,” as the pineapple has been the symbol of Hospitality since the Colonial times.

Bob was also a great artist.

His favored medium was watercolor, and his paintings grace the walls of homes and businesses throughout the Midwest and the South.

The walls in our home proudly display a number of Bob’s watercolors.

Robert Andrew Dezotell was my hero, and many times he was my protector.

I miss his word of encouragement and sense of humor every day.

Bob had a beautiful wife, Eileen, who was a wonderful person and also very successful in her own right.

But even with all of his successes my big brother suffered with chronic depression.

He never felt like he was good enough, or deserving of his prominence in the fields of his chosen endeavors.

He sought medical help, tried various medications, and sought counseling.

Bob learned to hide his illness well from his business associates and his friends.

He knew how to put on that “smiling face” and he fulfilled the role of “The Pineapple Man” until the time of his death.

Over the years Bob learned to manage and mask his depression. But, then he received the news that he had leukemia.

He soon learned he would need a bone marrow transplant if he had a chance for survival.

His depression was no longer hidden, and he made the decision to not seek treatment for his cancer. In fact, he welcomed death.

Within months my big brother passed away.

Bob was a believer. Bob prayed.

Bob read the Bible and numerous Christian books (one of his favorites was Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life), and Bob read the works of numerous other self-help gurus.

Bob loved his wife and her children, and Bob loved our precious mother.

Bob loved all of his siblings and our families, in fact Bob always loved people. But so often Bob suffered in silence.

And my big brother, my hero, Bob, cried out to God until the day he passed from this life.

Bob was finally free.

So many other very successful men and women have suffered with mental illness.

Abraham Lincoln is considered one of the greatest Presidents in the history of the United States, and yet he battled depression for most of his life.

As a young man, he had contemplated suicide at various times, and his friends described his ‘melancholy’ as a defining character trait. Maybe even something that made him great.

Lincoln is a case in point to prove that mental health problems arise regardless of circumstances.

A common and unhelpful myth about mental health is that a person’s personal success or wealth should preclude issues such as depression.

Sorry! Not true!

Another prominent, very successful person was Ludwig van Beethoven. He lived from 1770-1827, and he revolutionized music. He happened to be manic-depressive or bipolar.

His musical compositions continue to inspire, perplex, and even intimidate serious musicians to this day. In fact, Beethoven is widely viewed as the greatest composer who ever lived, in spite of his mental illness and the fact that he was deaf.

Beethoven first noticed difficulties with his hearing when he was about 28; and by the time he was 44, he was totally deaf and unable to converse unless he passed written notes back and forth to his colleagues, visitors and friends.

Beethoven also fought against mental illness. He attempted suicide in 1813, and when he realized he was losing his hearing, he wrote: “I joyfully hasten to meet death… for will it not deliver me from endless suffering?”

Another who suffered with mental illness was Sir Isaac Newton. He is considered the father of modern science, and he too was manic depressive Newton is called the “shining light of the scientific revolution of the 17th century.” He is best remembered as the man who discovered gravity.

Newton’s troubled childhood was filled with fits of rage, typical of manic depressives, and it is said that they characterized his life as an adult as well.

As a child he threatened (in his own words) “to kill my step-father and my mother and burn them and the house over them.”

Sir Winston Churchill led Britain to victory in World War II, and fought a private battle against what he called “his black dog of depression.” He was the inspirational leader of Great Britain during World War II, and his very public bravery inspired both the British soldiers and the Allies not to surrender to the threat of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Churchill is still a national hero to the British and even here in the US. But only those closest to him realized that he was fighting, since his youth, bipolar disorder.

He suffered lengthy periods of depression, sometimes in response to bad situations and at other times for unexplained reasons. Churchill’s letters referred to these fits of depression as his ‘black dog.’ He wrote, “I think this man (a doctor) might be useful to me if my black dog returns. He (the black dog) seems quite away from me now—it is such a relief. All the colors come back into the picture.”

Chronic, clinical, or manic depression lay behind the many achievements of so many successful people throughout history.

Some say that the aggression, iron will, and single-mindedness that made these people the perfect leaders all came in spite of, or maybe because of their mental illness.

A caring Christian once wrote: “The similarities of our anguish, the deep depths of our depressions, the struggles of our condition, the unanswered, perplexing questions and even at times, silence from God show us by their similarity that God has found a way to stretch us and shape us, even sometime agonizingly, but purposefully into something more than we were before.”

If you, or a loved one, suffer with depression or mental health issues please reach out for help. You don’t have to fight the fight alone.

The Tennessee Statewide Crisis Line, which is available 24 hours a day, every day, is a resource for anybody experiencing a mental health crisis. All calls we be routed to a trained crisis counselor. They will not only provide you with encouragement, support and guidance, but they will work to connect you with the appropriate community support for you or your loved one. And of course this service is free. Call 855-274-747.

And please remember, God is only a prayer away! He is also available 24/7.

May God pour His richest blessings upon you! I am praying for you.


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