Q&A with Jacques Lamoureux, 20-year-old hockey forward, about his battle with depression.
Whether or not his bout with depression three years ago cost Jacques Lamoureux admission to the Air Force Academy (as he claimed, and the academy denied, in April), the eight-month episode clearly could have cost Lamoureux his life. Standing atop a parking ramp, the then 17-year-old high school junior - overweight from prescribed antidepressants and a shadow of the goal-scoring forward he became since taking the ice at age 3 - contemplated taking the leap. He didn't, and his road to recovery through therapy has led Lamoureux on a voluntary speaking tour within his native North Dakota and to points beyond, addressing high school classes, business groups and international suicide-prevention organizations about the often-misunderstood illness. Paul Steinbach spoke with Lamoureux, now 20, between the end of his Junior A season (he tallied 70 points to rank second in scoring on the Bismarck Bobcats) and a pending visit to Michigan Tech University, where he hoped to land a roster spot with the Division I Huskies.
Q: How do you define depression, and how did you come to grips with it?
A: It's a chemical imbalance, and sometimes it can be treated with medicine. But, with me, I made a conscious decision. I threw my medicine away and said, "I need to beat this on my own." I started opening up to my psychologist, and that really helped us take a big step forward.
Q: Did you ever fear that depression would force you to step away from hockey?
A: No one ever advised me to step away, but I wanted to quit many times. I was frustrated. My focus wasn't entirely on hockey, so I wasn't playing very well and I was sitting out a lot. I wasn't used to that. My coaches didn't know what was going on. I don't know if they would have let me play at all had they known.
Q: Have you let your teammates know about your past?
A: I helped start up a Fellowship of Christian Athletes group within our team, and I told everybody about the situation and what I went through. I was captain of our team this year, and so for them to hear that that kind of stuff happened to me was an eye-opener.
Q: Will you continue to enlighten others about depression through your speaking?
A: Whenever I get an opportunity and I can do it, I do it. I love doing it, and people really appreciate my being able to step up and talk about a very touchy issue. What I find most rewarding is when people come up to me afterward and say, "I'm going through the same thing. This has inspired me to find new ways to seek help."
Q: Do you feel you've personally conquered the illness?
A: I think I can honestly say that it's always going to stay in my past. I've had some pretty tough situations come up since then - a good friend is battling cancer - that could send someone like me spiraling into depression again. But I'm fine now. I've been using my past to try to help other people. It has been more of a good thing than a bad thing.