Firsthand: It ain’t easy “Being Greene”

My first experience with the public face of depression was back in 2012, when TSN’s Michael Landsberg discussed it openly in the documentary “Darkness and Hope: Depression, Sports and Me.” Because of folks like he and Clara Hughes, who herself has spoken publicly about mental illness, more and more people are opening up about their struggles.

People like the Greene family, who are featured in this week’s episode of Firsthand. Written and directed by Jeff Newman, who executive-produces alongside producer Jocelyn Mitchell, “Being Greene” from Nüman Films delves into a family where mental illness is a part of their lives. Quinn Greene serves as the narrator, describing how he’s the one always looking for a laugh when he’s on stage performing. He introduces his father, Dave, rock quarry operator by day and Elvis tribute artist (he’s pretty darn good) by night; mother Roxie, a writer and intellectual; and youngest son Kane, a big-hearted guy with a gap-toothed smile. Of course, what folks see outwardly is no indication of what’s going on inside their heads.

The small-town Manitoba family pulls back the curtain on their struggles with mental illness as Dave unlocks the door to his childhood home, revealing a major case of hoarding because of a childhood of abuse and poverty. But while Dave found solace and success in performance, he became distanced from Roxie, Quinn and Kane. Roxie has attempted suicide in the past and deals with unipolar depressive disorder, Kane suffers from anxiety and suicidal thoughts and spends days in bed, unable to get up or hold a job. Quinn decides to have Kane move in with him, so he can keep tabs on his brother.

(l-r) Kane, Roxie and Quinn Greene

The problem? Quinn wants to have his own life, and feels guilty for having that desire. And when, just 13 minutes into “Being Greene,” Kane is openly discussing his dark thoughts at Sara Riel Inc., a mental health facility, I imagined he was on the right path. But then autumn and winter arrive, the darkest seasons of the year for Kane emotionally, and everything spirals out of control. With guys like Kane’s boss, Sam, thinking his employee just needs to eat more fruit to get out of his funk, it’s no wonder some people have trouble discussing their struggles.

But “Being Greene” isn’t meant to be a sob story, or a vehicle to pity the family. Rather, it’s meant to educate and encourage us to talk about our feelings and reveal what’s going on with our own mental health. And, thanks to “The Greene Warriors,” it can be entertaining too.

Firsthand airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on CBC.