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One man treats his depression by giving back

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

It is estimated that 300-million people suffer from depression across the world.  Experts say it's important to take action to deal with it.  As part of our Mental Health Initiative, WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says a local attorney found a way to help others as a way of enhancing his own mood. 

"One of the things that really makes a big difference for me is volunteering and I volunteer at St. Luke's Mission on the east side of Buffalo,” said Dan Lukasik.

Lukasik was diagnosed with depression about 15-years ago and formed Lawyers with Depression. He speaks locally and nationally to help others. He is also the director of Workplace Well-being at the Mental Health Advocates of Western New York.

Depression can be isolating and experts say helping others can provide a big mood booster.

"What really is healing on so many levels is relationships,” remarked Lukasik.

Lukasik starting attending Mass at St. Luke's Mission of Mercy a couple of years ago searching for healing through his deep Catholic faith.

“And you know I’ve got to say there’s lots of things that help depression, but for me one of the biggest parts is my Catholic faith, because I think people with depression struggle with a sense of hopelessness,” described Lukasik.

“And when they come here and they start working – I watch their lives change – because they give – they receive,” said Amy Betros, co-founder of St. Luke’s. 

Lukasik asked Betros to match with a boy he could mentor.  Over a year ago she matched him 11-year-old boy who is growing up without a father.

“My George really needed a good male mentor, example – you know – poor thing is surrounded by women everywhere. That was like torture Betros laughed, “You’ve got to have that male influence you know.”

We aren't allowed to use George's last name, but he joined our interview inside St. Luke's.

“At first I thought it was going to be weird and then I started to get to know him, and then I started to get closer with him. He’s like a friend to me and I really have fun spending time with him,” George explained  

Lukasik let’s George listen to rap music in his vehicle.

“He sits in the co-pilot seat. This is a song – it’s Eminem, a great rapper and this is his song ‘Mockingbird’,” Lukasik explained.  George turned up the music. “So we listen and we drive.”

George attends Our Lady of Black Rock School in Buffalo and during the school year Lukasik picks him up a couple times a week from school.  George's school work has improved since forming his relationship with  Lukasik.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Dan Lukasik & George at St. Luke's.

“Before we met my reading was low and then we started working together. He started helping me with my reading and then as the days go by, my reading has got a lot better. He asks me questions and I ask him questions and we read together and we play games together,” George said.

“We’ve done all kinds of things together,” Lukasik added. “In the winter time we go out to the Anchor Bar for chicken wings and pizza. George always has the majority of the chicken wings – I get some sometimes, but I love pizza more – so it works and the waitress - even at different restaurants, they’re always happy to see George and say hi, George.”

“The most thing we usually did was go to the movies,” George recalled.

“And sometimes we go to Lazertron or sometimes we’ve gone to – the library is one of our favorite places to go,” Lukasik said. 

As you watch the two interact, smiling and laughing, you begin to realize how they are serving one another to overcome their personal struggles.

“It helped me a lot because he help me to build up to be the person I am now,” George replied.

“George is a relationship I could have never could have imagined just a few years ago. George and I are very good, close friends and I love George,” Lukasik responded.

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