Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final installment of a series of articles on depression and suicide awareness and prevention in Tooele County.
Not once, but twice, Mike Pearson was ready to take his own life.
Only intervention by a neighbor, his wife, his family, and local law enforcement stopped him.
“I had reached the point where I did not value my own life,” Pearson said. “I had problems that I could not see any way out of, and I thought people would be better off without me.”
Pearson, who is in his 40s and lives in Salt Lake Valley, said his problems stemmed from a gambling addiction that started at a young age.
“I use to play cards and gamble with the neighborhood kids when I was young,” he said.
As Pearson grew up, so did the addiction.
He started a successful automotive business and gambled with the business’s money. Pearson said he swindled a person he didn’t know, who lived in another country, out of $40,000 in an online deal for a car. Pearson then lost the money gambling.
“I didn’t go to Wendover or Las Vegas if I didn’t have at least $10,000,” he said.
He tried to hide his problem from his wife, but it didn’t last long. Things came crashing down. Amidst massive debt, he lost his business to bankruptcy. He also lost his wife and family.
That’s when he lost hope and attempted suicide.
After his second attempt, Pearson went to a therapist who gave him a diagnosis of gambling addiction — which didn’t surprise him — and situational depression, which was linked to the gambling addiction.
The therapist didn’t prescribe medication for Pearson.
Signs of situational depression, also known as adjustment disorder, vary from person to person.
People with situational depression experience more stress than would normally be expected in response to a stressful event, and the stress causes significant problems in the person’s life, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Symptoms may include feeling sad, hopeless or not enjoying things you used to enjoy, worrying or feeling anxious, nervous, jittery or stressed out, feeling overwhelmed, avoiding important things such as going to work or paying bills. Symptoms also include suicidal thoughts or behavior.
Pearson only went to therapy a few times. He decided to tackle his gambling addiction, which he saw as the root cause of his depression.
He changed his friends, no longer hanging around his former gambling buddies. He walked into the auto dealership where his father used to work and applied for a job — and got it.
And he turned over control of his money to his wife, so he wouldn’t be tempted.
It’s been about two years since Pearson attempted suicide and his plan appears to be working. He is one of the top salespeople at the auto dealership where he works, according to Jon Gossett, Pearson’s uncle. Gossett is president of the Life’s Worth Living Foundation in Tooele County.
Pearson’s wife divorced him during his troubles, but they have since remarried. He now lives with his wife and family.
He works on car restoration as a hobby. His latest project is a car he plans to give to his son.
“I work, but I take time off for family,” he said.
During the height of his suicidal thoughts, Pearson felt overwhelmed by the amount of debt he incurred while gambling.
Pearson said he sat down with Gossett and made a plan to repay people back. Pearson is making payments on that plan.
“At one time, I thought that I might live, but I would never be happy again,” Pearson again.
While sitting on the couch in his family room, while recalling his dark ordeal in detail, he occasionally smiled.
When asked “Are you happy today?”, Pearson paused for a few seconds before responding.
“Yes,” he said. “Does it get better? Yes it does. Does it take time? Yes it does. Does time go fast? Yes it does.”
Pearson doesn’t count the years or months since he stopped gambling.
“It’s one day at a time,” he said.
One thing that keeps him going is his family, especially his son.
“Your children should out live you,” he said.