Mark Hanson, RIP
As many of you will have heard yesterday, Mark Hanson, the deputy managing director of Wolfstar Consultancy, passed away on Wednesday. Mark had been suffering from depression for quite some time and took his own life (our official statement is here).
I’ve worked with Mark for more than eighteen months now and since I first met him he’s been an inspiration. I’ve worked with some incredibly talented and generous people but none who took as much time as Mark did to really help and develop people. Within a few weeks of joining Wolfstar, Mark had spotted that I wasn’t really enjoying the traditional side of public relations, but that I had a massive passion for thinking up new things. At this point, even I didn’t know that about myself. But that was Mark, ten steps ahead of everyone else. Mark encouraged me to pursue some of my geeky ideas and convinced Wolfstar that there was huge value in my seemingly random scribbles. Mark pretty much singlehandedly crafted my career path and helped me to find out what I enjoyed most about communications and business.
One of the things that stood out most for me about Mark was that he always asked questions, I swear his favourite phrase was ‘so what?’. He challenged me every day, to the point where I would go home feeling pretty pissed off at him, shouting profanities about him in the car. But I always knew that every comment, every piece of praise and every criticism was carefully selected to make me better. To help me improve. He would ask me to use geeky technology to create something that had never been done, to challenge me, to see what we could do and what we could produce to help clients. (He would’ve had a field day laughing at me today struggling to create an RSS feed from a Twitter search so that I could collate every condolence.)
A few things have have stood out today; 1) Mark touched so many lives, more than anyone could ever have thought (and he should’ve done a lot more name-dropping), and 2) there is still too much stigma that surrounds depression and mental health.
Depression is a crippling illness. It isn’t the same as a broken leg, or a heart problem. The brain is what controls our everything and lets us see what we see. If the brain is suffering then everything is suffering. Mark was a very private man, he was by no means anti-social, but as Paul Staines so elegantly put it, ‘he never seemed to empty his glass’. He’d ask you questions for hours and listen intently, taking every single detail in, but would brush off any question directed at him. I had at most two moments with Mark where he gave away personal details. Two. In eighteen months. But I always thought that he was just trying to remain incredibly professional. We need to continue to talk about depression and mental illness, campaigns such as the WhatStigma campaign are great, especially if they make people talk about this illness more openly (you can find more information about the Time to Change campaign here).
In a lot of ways, I think that Mark has finally found relief from his pain and suffering. Anyone that knows Mark will know that he didn’t really suffer from mood spikes, he was always very controlled and very precise. On a level, constantly. Which, I suppose, is why his death has come as such a surprise to everyone.
One of the positives about today has been the huge reaction, which was so tremendous that Mark’s name trended for almost all of yesterday, something that (as Derek pointed out) he would’ve given his wry smile at and probably made him said ‘Haaannssson’ (anyone that’s met Mark will know what I mean).
So as Mark would say, ‘let’s cut the bullshit’.
You leave hundreds of devastated people behind, but I hope you’ve found peace mate.
I wish Clare, Mark’s family and anyone who came into contact with Mark my sincerest condolences. Mark was an incredible gentleman, an inspiration and a mentor and he will forever be sorely missed.