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University Advancement | January 2019  


Laughter is the best medicine

Jessica Holmes, Radio and Television Arts’98

Jessica Holmes, Radio and Television Arts ’98, has had a public battle with depression and shares her story to help others.


If she couldn’t beat depression, comedian Jessica Holmes, RTA ’98, would still surely laugh about it…eventually.

“Comedians go by the mantra: tragedy plus time equals comedy,” said Holmes in an interview about her new book Depression The Comedy: A Tale of Perseverance. “Any experience I have that is negative, I’m looking to turn it into a positive.” She credits Ryerson with her entrepreneurial spirit and that never-give-up attitude. “I am so happy where I am at and still finding ways to be creative and to put new information out there,” she said. “The professors at Ryerson, who were still closely tied to the industry, always made us aware that you had to keep learning and trying new things.”

The Ryerson Connection caught up with Holmes, a 15-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Farce, to talk about her own struggles with depression.


With all the stigma around mental health, you took a risk exposing your own struggles. At what point did you decide that talking about mental health was a priority for you?

Creatively, I was wandering aimlessly. To come out of the depression, I needed to put that suffering to a creative purpose, so I started to talk about it. I understood that there would be risk involved for my career, but I feel like I have done a good enough job of presenting mental health issues in a light, validating way for people.


When did you realize you were struggling with mental health issues? When did you get help?

I had been going downhill for about two years and I thought: “This is just what it is like for an artist. There are ups and downs.” I stopped hanging around my friends and finally my husband said, “We need to go to marriage counselling.” In our first session, our therapist was like “I think you need to get treatment for depression and then we can work on your marriage.”


Who has been your biggest champion in this process?

My husband. Even though he didn’t understand what I was going through he did try. And my life coach. When I told her I was writing Depression The Comedy: A Tale of Perseverance, she said: “From now on, I work for you for free, that’s how much I believe in the work that you are doing.”


What kind of feedback have you received since you started talking about depression?

Depression is such a hard topic, I don’t want to trigger anyone, so I’ve made it all about the comedy. Some people read the book for fun, but others look to it for validation of their own mental health issues. I did a talk recently with retirees and they told me, “Once you made it OK to speak about mental health, as a community, we have opened up to each other more.” I think that was the greatest moment of my career.


What advice would you give to someone who is coming to terms with their own depression?

You’re not alone. Be proud of even the smallest effort you can make on your own behalf. Keep trying and eventually one of those things you try will work. And it might not work forever, it can feel like an unfair sentence to keep suffering from depression again and again. Eventually things will look a
little brighter.

And for families of loved ones suffering from depression, know that we can’t just climb out of it. Patience and non-judgement from family and friends is amazing and what helped me the most.

Ryerson provides alumni with workshops in resilience, well-being, and mindfulness. To find out more about these programs visit ThriveRU.