montana photograph Jason DeShaw
It’s not much of a concert poster, but it filled the room at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs for Jason DeShaw last summer.
DeShaw is a country singer from Plentywood who is open about his own struggles with mental illness. He tells the crowd at the hospital that he was first diagnosed in 2010 after a breakdown while he was on tour in Saskatchewan. After a 400-mile dash to Billings, Shaw tells the crowd, he was asked if he heard voices.
“Yes I do.” Whose?
“And into the psych ward I went,” DeShaw says.
Four years later, DeShaw is on tour as a performer, speaker and listener, visiting Montana small towns and large cities, advocating for mental illness awareness.
He speaks from the heart, he says, and sings from it too. And his honesty, courage and eloquence have impressed and affected lives. He tells Montana Quarterly writer Brian D’Ambrosio of a performance an an eastern Montana high school that inspired several students to seek counseling for depression that many of their friends and family did not know existed.
“Mental illness has made me a better human being,” DeShaw says. That’s a hell of a thing.
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