A few weeks ago, someone I was close to committed suicide. She was a former student, friend of my daughter’s, and a beautiful person in so many ways.
I’ve talked about depression on this blog before, and I’ve been candid about my own battle with it. The truth is that I often feel like the world would be a better place without me. There are many days that I make myself go through the motions of appearing “normal” because I am afraid that I would be locked up forever in a rubber room if anyone knew the level of self-hatred that engulfs my brain.
Sadly, when I have medical issues that can be explained using x-rays or blood tests, I am relieved that there is a socially acceptable reason for my pain or discomfort. But when I experience extreme sadness or complete contempt for myself, I feel that I can only attribute it to my own failure.
Though we will never know for certain, I imagine that is what this incredible child of 19 years old must have felt – the hopelessness, the aloneness, the conviction that she could never be “enough,” the fear that admitting these feelings to anyone would horrify them or, worse, make them act differently around you in a clumsy attempt to pity something they just don’t understand.
I have been so fortunate to have the means, the awareness, and the resources to get professional help. Many do not. And that’s a tragedy. But the far larger problem in our society is that even the attempt to get help for mental illness is often viewed as a weakness or failure. Unlike an appendix that bursts or a cancerous tumor on the brain, depression is too often portrayed as the fault of the one suffering from it.
In 2018, I published a post on another blog about the sobering statistics of teenage depression. It also includes suggestions for parents on signs to watch for and ways to discuss depression with their children. And while it’s important for parents and students to be educated about depression, I want to make it clear that it is not the fault of any survivor if a loved one decides to take their own life. Our society as a whole needs to destigmatize this disease and offer resources for coping and living with depression. We don’t want your pity, fear, or accusations. Just accept that we are fighting a battle that you don’t quite understand but are willing to support.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Here are some ways you can help.
Here is the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for the United States: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ (1-800-273-8255)
And if you are someone who has difficulty getting up in the morning because it’s hard to imagine any reason worth leaving bed, here is a lovely thread I found on Twitter with good suggestions:
I want all of you to know that the world is a better place because of you. Your contributions, no matter the size, make a difference. We lost an incredible soul this month, who — perhaps for just an excruciating moment — forgot the positive impact she made on this planet. Please don’t lose sight of that, no matter how much your brain tries to persuade you to the contrary. Consider the quote below from one of my favorite authors who also deals with depression, Matt Haig.