Harris Tucker now lives in Bay Roberts with his wife, Lisa, and their two children, Logan and Lauren. The family originally lived in St. John’s, where Harris ran his own hairstyling business and Lisa worked as a teacher.
Harris says he’s always struggled with his mental health, having had episodes of depression and anxiety from as young as 16-years-old. However, some time around 2010, Harris was diagnosed with severe anxiety and clinical depression, and says that the stresses of life became too much. He had to leave his career and business behind.
“The stress just kept building and building,” explained Harris. “When I was younger, in my teens and early adult years, I could handle it. I’d have an episode here and there where it got pretty bad, but it was never enough for me to quit my job or anything like that. But now, ever since being clinically diagnosed, I’m too ill to work. It’s no longer just an episode here and there – it’s every day.”
Harris’ daughter, Lauren, is four-years-old, and suffers from cerebral palsy, a disorder that effects muscle tone, movement and motor skills.
Since his own diagnosis, Harris has been writing in an online blog called ‘The Life & Times of the Tuckers’ on Harrislisa72.com, where he shares his own life stories and experiences. At first, the blog was about his own struggles in dealing with his mental health issues, but since Lauren’s diagnosis with cerebral palsy, the blog has expanded into Harris’ struggles as a mentally ill father with a physically disabled daughter.
Harris told The Compass that dealing with his anxiety and depression, as well as Lauren’s cerebral palsy, has taken a toll on the family as a whole. Lisa no longer teaches, as the Tuckers are constantly in and out of places like the Janeway Children’s Hospital, and handling both mental health as well as physical health issues as a family has proven to be a taxing process.
Harris receives around $1,000 a month from disability insurance, and Lisa receives employment insurance. Harris says that this level of income is not nearly enough to sustain a family of four, especially when it comes to the costs related to their health.
As a result, the Tuckers can only afford to put Lauren in daycare three days a week. During the rest of the week, Lauren requires at least one of her parents to be by her side at all times, ultimately adding to the list of reasons Harris or Lisa can’t maintain steady employment.
Harris said the family has relied on crowd funding services such as Gofundme to help cover costs of some things, such as a wheelchair accessible van for Lauren, but adds that the family refuses to live their lives relying on other people’s money.
“It’s not the responsibility of our neighbors, or friends, or people in the community to pay for the things we need,” explained Harris as he sat in the family room of the Janeway. “At the end of the day, we’re at a point in our life where he can’t work. I’m not mentally capable or working, and we’ve got so much to handle that Lisa is no longer teaching, either. But we need more money in order to survive, but the government just doesn’t seem to be willing to try and understand that.”
Harris went on to air his frustrations, mentioning previous conversations he’s had with government representatives who were unable to provide him with the help he needed.
“I finally got a call back from one lady the other day,” said Harris, “who told me that they could help me put Lauren in daycare for an extra two days a week. That sounded great. But, then she told me it was going to cost us somewhere around $800 a month. We can’t afford things like that, not with our current income, and then we’re right back to square one.”
Despite their situation, Harris hopes his blog posts can help raise awareness of the struggles people suffering with mental illness face on a daily basis. Harris is looking to help put an end to the stigma he says sufferers of mental illness have to battle.
“I’m not really a writer. I couldn’t write a book, even if people tell me I should,” said Harris. “But I have been through a lot, and I know there are other people out there struggling in the same way.
“We need to end the stigma surrounding mental health. People need help, and they deserve that help, rather than being given the bare minimum. If our blog can help raise awareness for that, then we’ve accomplished our goal.”