I’d like to think I make world class spirits here at Heartland Distillers and I hope you do to0. I enjoy the taste of our spirits and, as one would assume, I believe the responsible use of alcoholic beverages can be an enhancement to a person’s life. Our spirits, when consumed responsibly, can add to any festive occasion – whether it’s a large party or just you and your significant other. I have always encouraged the responsible consumption of our spirits and all alcoholic beverages. However, there is a dark side to the spirits business and it concerns substance abuse and mental illness. Often spirits and illegal drugs are abused and often it is by those suffering from mental illness.
Choosing to consume spirits as part of your social life is different than needing to consume them. If you think this might be you, I don’t want your business and encourage you to seek help. A list of organizations that can help you can be found here.
Why such a personal appeal from me? I have very personal interest in substance abuse, mental health and suicide prevention. These are subjects that don’t appear on the typical distillery website.
I am the father of four wonderful sons. In August of 2014, my oldest son lost his battle with clinical depression and took his own life at the age of 17. His name was David Birge Hobson and his picture appears in this post. He was a 4.0 student, he was a class officer, he was a Colts fan, he was popular, he was an athlete who loved to play basketball, football and rugby, he had a fun loving sense of humor, his dream was to attend Stanford University, he was my best friend, and like countless others in this world he also suffered from clinical depression.
David’s passing devastated our family. It is a loss we are still recovering from. I can honestly say his loss almost killed me and life without him will never be the same for me. After his loss I took a period of time off. Production and distribution of our products suffered as a result. I contemplated leaving the spirits business altogether. Instead, I’ve refocused my efforts, and because I know David would want me to, I’ve dedicated a portion of my life to working to keep other dads from suffering the loss of a child.
Depression and mental illness affects people from all walks of life. Think you are immune? No one is. It may often be accompanied with substance abuse, but not always. If you feel depressed, I encourage you to seek help and advice from others. Remember, there is help available and no matter how you feel, you are loved, you have value, and you are not alone. There are plenty of people who will stand beside, you including me.
Since David’s death, I have made it my mission to help people, particularly teenagers and young people, who are suffering from depression, have compromised mental health, or may have suicidal thoughts. As part of this mission, I want to bring awareness and also the resources for mental illness treatment and prevention. Schools and small businesses in particular are ill equipped to handle students and employees with mental health issues. They often treat young people diagnosed with mental illness as disciplinary problems or threats.
I have set up a charitable organization to channel this work and to raise money for educational and prevention programs. Called Underneath the Smile, the name draws attention to the fact the clinically depressed many times do not exhibit outward signs of depression. It is also a tribute to David’s infectious smile. Underneath the Smile seeks to foster awareness and commit resources to fight depression among our teenagers. Mental illness is the second leading cause of death for teenagers and young adults. Mental illness in our country takes more lives than drunk drivers, murder, and car accidents. In the industry in which we spirit producers operate depression and substance abuse have also been identified as work hazards. This is particularly true in the restaurant and club industry.
If you feel drawn to help, please visit our website and sign up for our mailing list or make a donation.
In 2017 we will be hosting the Gleam Gala in Indianapolis to raise funds for Underneath the Smile and other like-minded charities. It will be a night of food, fun, and entertainment with many local organizations involved, and athletes and celebrities in attendance. We will also have a celebrity bartender competition. If you feel moved to help, keep checking back here for more information.
Regardless, please continue to responsibly enjoy our products and do so with the knowledge a portion of our profits, our time, and our talents go to combating these issues.
Founder and Master Distiller