The news of a suicide has always reached me by phone. It has always come when I least expected it. It has always struck me hard and left me feeling numb. Even so, I have spent countless hours and tears lamenting something I didn’t do, pondering the many possible things I should have done, should have noticed, should have said.
So many thoughts all in the same moment, so much so, that it becomes overwhelming.
The question that haunts us is the same one that mankind has been asking since the beginning of time. Why? Why would they do this to me? This is what the ones closest to the deceased will ask. The impersonal truth is that, in the vast number cases, the overwhelming reason for the suicide is a very deep depression. Numerous articles, academic writings, and books on mental health issues have stated that as much as 96% of all suicide attempts were the result of a deep depression.
So here begins one of societies’ greatest dilemmas. We don’t understand depression. When Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014 many media stories followed the vein that he was very unhappy, that it was an accident and he didn’t know what he was doing. I don’t remember the first report that focused on depression and the beast this illness truly is.
Too many educated Americans walk around with the idea that depression is something you “get over.”
Although some forms of depression are situational, there is also the type, once manifested, that responds well to medical attention, including medication and therapy– all of which should be administered under a doctor’s supervision. Within this plan is the need for real work to be accomplished by the patient with the mental health counselor doing just that– counseling. The support a depressed individual receives from his family and/or support group will be invaluable. This person is not crazy. He is in pain. When we resort to name-calling we only serve to prove how deep our ignorance really is on this subject.
The family is always the first line of defense when it comes to mental illness. We know our loved ones quite well. When we first detect a strange or changed behavior is the time to raise the issue. We may notice increased isolation or small things like a person who once enjoyed going to the park now avoiding the outdoors.
We should all take steps to get educated on this issue. There are organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that exist to educate the public on mental health issues.
But silence and apathy are the enemy.
Once depression has set in, the thought processes of the afflicted change. Happiness, joy, and a positive self-image becomes harder to accept. The depressed begin to view the world through a haze of gloominess. They isolate themselves and withdraw from those things that were once dearest to them, including loved ones. As the depression grows, hope and self-worth evaporate. The need for medical attention and trained professional intervention is paramount in this situation. When in doubt, err on the side of medical science.
Over the years too many well-meaning family members and friends have erroneously believed that they alone could make the difference their loved one needed to overcome this illness.
Yes, your support will be vital, but don’t commit the mistake of ignoring medical science. The consequences may haunt you for the rest of your life. Depression is an illness that can be defeated or, in the most serious of cases, controlled. Let’s give our loved ones a chance to live.