How meditation, art and a Buddhist monk saved a man's life
Cillian O'Brien, with a report from Avis Favaro and producer Olivera Stojanovic
Published Wednesday, January 30, 2019 10:28PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 31, 2019 7:48AM EST
Meditation and art have helped save a Canadian psychologist’s life following a battle with depression and a suicide attempt.
Ryan Joseph, a 41-year-old from Mississauga, was first prescribed medication for depression and anxiety at the age of 20.
The part-time actor and model graduated as a clinical psychologist and later worked with children who have autism.
On the outside it appeared as if he had it all, but his outward success was hiding a dark pain.
“With mental health, sometimes it's a very slow and silent disease, I started feeling very anxious, on edge and depressed,” Joseph told CTV News.
Despite medical care and an array of medications, nothing worked and he attempted to take his life when he was 36.
“I felt like a guinea pig, a bit of this one and a bit of that one and it had a really bad reaction where I tried to kill myself ," he said.
Hospitalized, Joseph said he lost his home, family and friends.
He was also diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a mental illness marked by a pattern of varying moods, self-image and behavior, according to the National Institute for Mental Health in the U.S.
Joseph said it was a relief to know what was wrong and that he could receive treatment.
Unfortunately there was a two year waiting list for therapy, so he turned to some alternatives for relief. He made a breakthrough three years ago.
His doctor said she used meditation having learned about it at a local Buddhist temple. She encouraged Joseph to try it. He says his life began to change the moment he walked into the building. He started taking classes taught by Bhante Saranapala, who calls himself “The Urban Buddhist Monk.”
“I could see he was suffering,” Saranapala told CTV News.
Saranapala says he has seen many people struggling with mental health issues enter his doors over his 23 years at his temple in Mississauga, Ont. Hospital staff and public service workers are among the people who have sought out his help.
Saranapala encourages people to continue taking medication and see their doctors. However, he says people have a role to play in fixing their minds.
“Medication can heal your body, but you need meditation to heal your mind,” he says.
Joseph says he felt drawn to the practice and now meditates every day.
“I was teaching my mind to slow down the racing thoughts,” he said.
Saranapala also encouraged Joseph to try hobbies that made him happy. Joseph turned to art. At first, the works were dark and somber. Now they are large bold and colourful.
What’s more, the art has become a source of income, with his large canvasses fetching thousands of dollars.
“Every aspect of my life has improved, my happiness and my creativity. He helped me a lot. He truly has saved my life,” Joseph says.
Joseph says he now hopes to return to clinical psychology with a more open mind about alternative therapies, like art and meditation.
He also wants to use his story and his journey as a platform for helping others.
“I feel like a lot of people don’t understand, and people are unsympathetic. It’s my mission to remove some of the stigma that’s associated with mental illness and want to use my story and my artwork to be an advocate.”
Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day. Bell, which owns CTV News, will donate five cents to mental health initiatives for every text, mobile and long distance call on Bell Canada, Bell Aliant and Bell MTS.
It will also donate the same amount for each tweet using the hashtag #BellLetsTalks and every Bell Let’s Talk video view.
On Facebook, video views and use of the Bell Let’s Talk frame will also see the company donate five cents a time. The same with the special Snapchat filter.
Last year, Bell donated just over $6.9 million to Canadian mental health programmes.