DETROIT LAKES — To say that Dylan Archer has lived through tough times would be an understatement.
A year ago, he started a blog about his trials, originally planned to be a one-time entry.
“The initial blog entry, to be honest, was my suicide note,” he said this week from a coffee shop in Minneapolis. “I went through and told my entire story. I wanted people not to have any reason not to know how I was feeling.”
Living with double depression — dysthymia and major depressive disorder — he decided not to kill himself, and now is using his story to help others struggling with mental illness.
Last year, the Detroit Lakes native was in Zorbaz when he ran into former co-worker Joe Olivieri and they got to talking.
Olivieri, a 2006 Detroit Lakes graduate, and his business partner, Dave Cowardin, were looking to do a documentary on suicide awareness and prevention.
“We worked together at Pamida back in the day,” Olivieri said of knowing Archer from school days. “He was always long-haired, sunglasses on all the time, off-putting, I think he would even say. He was just very angry at that time.”
Olivieri said he was intrigued with Archer’s story.
Variety of stories
While at Zorbaz that night, Archer, a 2008 Detroit Lakes graduate, told Olivieri about his blog, which he had continued to post to, hoping to help others.
“He took a look at it with Dave, and they gave me a call and asked me if I’d be the focal point” of their documentary project, Archer said.
Since then, the project has expanded from suicide awareness to mental illness, as its title, “Call Me Mental: Telling Stories That Will Save Lives,” suggests.
Archer is the focus of the 10-minute Episode 1.
And they continue to seek other stories from a variety of people.
“We’re looking for people who have gone through some issues with mental illness and have found their roads to mental wellness, whatever that is, whether it’s art therapy, hiking in the woods or pharmaceuticals or whatever,” Olivieri said. “We were filming acupuncture yesterday, and that was just fascinating.”
Currently they are filming an episode with Miss Minneapolis 2014, Julia Schliesing, who has battled depression. Her pageant platform is suicide prevention.
Having these various stories gave Olivieri and Cowardin the opportunity to make this a larger project than just one documentary. They plan to do a full-length documentary in the future, but the episodes allow them more freedom.
“As the episodes come together, we’ll be painting a broad, or at least a broader, picture of people with mental illnesses,” Olivieri said.
Making a difference
Though Archer was looking for someone to make a difference in his life, he was also looking to make a difference in someone else’s life.
“I wanted to make sure I was contributing, and I wanted to show people that you can make a difference. Big or small, it’s going to help save someone’s life,” he said.
When Olivieri and Cowardin proposed that he be a part of the documentary, Archer said he saw it as a way to reach more people than he was with just his blog.
“I was on board from the get-go to help people as much as I could.”
They filmed Archer’s episode a few weeks ago in Detroit Lakes, edited it and posted it on the website callmemental.com to debut the project. Archer wasn’t exactly happy with the outcome at first.
“Initially I was a little bummed out. You’re condensing someone’s life story down to 10 minutes,” he said.
“He was mildly offended,” Olivieri said of Archer’s first reaction. “You summarize somebody’s life struggles into 10 minutes. You’re gonna miss out on things.”
Archer said people get to see only a general idea of his illness and not the details that go along with the years of depression.
“But overall the response has been good, and there’s so much support that you can’t really feel anything but be happy that people aren’t attacking you,” he said. “It’s educating you. I believe it helped people.
Olivieri said they have had an “unbelievable” amount of people wanting to share their stories of mental illness.
“That’s what we started the project on: One in four will deal with something (mental illness related) in a year, and those numbers are pretty easy to just go out on a street corner and find people,” he said.