ISHPEMING, Mich. – Daniel Olson was very popular.
He was a star on the football team at Ishpeming High School in Marquette County, leading the team to the State Championship game in 2010.
From the outside, Olson looked like he had it all and not a care in the world, but his parents knew something wasn’t right.
“You just notice his behavior change from happy to more reserved more sad," said Jeff Olson, his father. “We figured it maybe it was just a phase that he was going through. He would get frustrated more and he would get a little more withdrawn.”
It turned out to be more than hormones. Doctors diagnosed Daniel Olson with depression.
Even medicated, Olson struggled with his anxiety.
“He would say, ‘I don’t feel like myself anymore. I can’t laugh anymore,’” Jeff Olson said.
It only seemed to get worse as time moved on. He would tell his parents he was anxious in public and thought others were judging him.
The family kept the struggle a secret from anyone outside of their immediate family as they continued to try and help Daniel Olson.
Eventually, Jeff Olson found his son in the laundry room of their home after ended his own life.
“You know we would’ve given up our life for him but we weren’t able to," Jeff Olson said. "Seeing him suffer and seeing him with all that frustration and sadness was hard.”
Looking back, Olson said he wished he had gotten his son help sooner and talked more openly about their struggle. He now travels across the county and talks to families about depression and anxiety. He made a documentary about his son, “Do it for Daniel.”
“We need to start looking at brain health the same way we would do with our full body health,” said Ann Perry, with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Physical health and mental health are the same.”
Perry said the organization is working with pediatricians and educators so they’re better equipped to deal with someone who is struggling.
Olson said he wants to spread a message of hope for those, like Daniel, who may be struggling.
“Remove the stigma, create understanding, so everybody understands what this is and what the symptoms are," Olson said. "Give people hope because it is very treatable. Unfortunately, for my son it wasn’t but it could’ve been with the early recognition. We’re trying to create a dialogue and get people talking.”
For a list of suicide prevention support and mental health resources available, click here. For more information on “Do it for Daniel,” visit the official website here.