At this year’s Rotary International Convention in Hamburg, Germany, Chris Wells won over a general session audience with a combination of high-energy showmanship and a serious message about mental health, drawn from his experience. A few years after graduating from college in 2011, Wells found himself depressed. “I’d felt a bit crap for months and months and months,” remembers Wells, now 29. “I was bored, negative all the time, stuck, not really doing anything. It was getting scary.”
Then two things happened that would change his life. First, a friend persuaded him to see a psychiatrist. Second, another friend introduced him to Jim Davies, a member of the Rotary Club of Market Harborough, who encouraged Wells to get involved with Rotary and suggested starting a Rotaract club. “I had no idea what to expect, but I was willing to try anything to not feel like this anymore,” Wells says.
Wells dived right into Rotary, helping found the Rotaract Club of Market Harborough in 2015. Soon the new Market Harborough Rotaractors were participating in a canned-food drive for local food banks, holding regular pub quiz fundraisers, and creating a support group for young stroke patients.
The club also held a night of comedy and music to raise money for a young man who had been accepted to a prestigious course at the National Youth Theatre in London but who couldn’t afford the fees. “I was like, ‘Right, we’ll have a Christmas concert in the middle of June, just to confuse everyone,’” Wells says cheerfully. “We raised more than enough money.”
The Market Harborough Rotaractors’ enthusiasm has proved contagious: Several new Rotaract clubs have been formed in the district.
Meanwhile, with continuing professional help, Wells’ mental health has improved. “As soon as I had a purpose that wasn’t my own, life was a bit easier,” he says. As he said in his speech at the convention: “Rotary isn’t the cure for depression, and people suffering from it shouldn’t feel shy about seeking out medical and professional help. … But for me, Rotaract truly aided in filling in some of those dark and empty spaces inside.”
— ANNE FORD
• This story originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of The Rotarian magazine.