DALE, Ind. (WEHT) – Depression among U.S. adults has gotten worse since the beginning of the pandemic. According to a study by Brown University and Boston University, Americans with depressive symptoms increased from 8.5 percent pre-pandemic to 32.8 percent in 2021.

Mitch Fleck, of Jasper, said he had suffered from depression all his life. From toxic relationships, to not feeling ‘good enough’ in his family, it was something he constantly struggled with. He experienced trauma in his personal like with the death of a close family friend and the abuse of a loved one. When Fleck spoke in front of the Recovery Celebration group at the Dale United Methodist Church on Tuesday, he said his way of coping was through alcohol.

Fleck said he couldn’t sleep at night if he didn’t consume a fifth of alcohol. And in April of 2019, his life changed forever. While intoxicated, he had attempted to take his own life. By some miracle, he survived and is able to tell his story today. Through several surgeries, he has regained his vision – which doctors thought he could lose – and can speak clearer than expected.

Through this life-changing event, he has been able to help other people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, depression and addiction. He created a non-profit called “A Step Above” that opened in February 2022. He said they want to help those who struggle with these issues, saying that they believe if they can fix the depression, the chance of suicide decreases.

When asked how it feels to share his testimony, Fleck says it’s “liberating. I just know that I want people to talk about it. Just knowing that people are willing to listen and interact. I personally enjoy the Q&A more than actually speaking because at least I know the more I interact with the crowd, it’s showing that people are willing to talk about it and they take it more seriously than you’d probably think.”

One of the non-profit’s board members, Tara Fullington of Jasper, said she suffered with addiction for 18 years and has now been clean for four.

“I think that the biggest problem with suicide, depression and addiction is that everyone is too afraid to admit that they have a problem and to admit that they need help,” said Fullington.

Fleck wants to make it his personal mission to help other people who are in his shoes.

“I tell myself if I have as little as one person come up and ask for help then I feel like I’ve accomplished my goal,” said Fleck. “My favorite part is them saying that watching me take care of myself has encouraged them to take care of themselves.”

Fleck said that each member of “A Step Above” is a recovered addict and they currently serve as counselors to anyone who needs help at any time of the day. He said if you are struggling, please contact him at astepaboveinc@outlook.com or you can visit his business Facebook page here.