Men of the U.P.: Turning tragedy into suicide awareness

ISHPEMING, Mich. (WLUC) - 17 months.

65 schools.

100 showings.

Countless touched by the 'Do it for Daniel' documentary presented by his father, Jeff Olson.

"You know, he did complete suicide, and people don’t like to talk about suicide or even say the word. He struggled for eight years and his struggle wasn’t in vain," said Olson. "We want to use his story, so that’s why we are doing this, we are Daniel's voice right now."

Although the successful documentary has been played throughout Michigan and surrounding states, Olson and his family were hesitant to put their son's story out there.

"Our biggest worry was that someone is going to think something negative of Daniel through this whole thing."

But after about two years of work by Michael and Kammi Berenses, the 75-minute film premiered in front of hundreds in August of 2016. It was there that Olson saw the film's potential for others and himself.

"It helps me grieve. It helps me get over the loss of my son," said Olson. "It was easy to do because we didn’t want anyone else to go through what he went through, and we didn’t want any parents to go through what we went through."

At both community and school showings Olson talks before and after the film to show understanding and hope for depression, mental illness and suicide.

"We are trying to get this out in the open so people know how common it is, how treatable it is and that it should be talked about like any other medical illness."

But the documentary is just the beginning of the Do it for Daniel foundation and scholarship as Olson is in the process of creationg a nonprofit called Daniel's Hope.

"We found out when I go out and speak and present that it's helping people right now, but what happens after I leave?"

With the help of a county committee, Olson is pushing a mental health curriculum to be taught throughout Michigan.

"We want to train somebody in every school to teach that curriculum. But even a pipe dream down the road we would like to train all the teachers in the school K through 12 so everyone is speaking the right language to help schools as much as we can."

And it’s these countless efforts that make Jeff Olson a father, a coach, a leader, and a true man of the U.P.



 
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