Any mention of suicide in the news breaks my heart for a variety of reasons. There’s going to be a lot of pain for that family. But I also know the victim went through all-consuming pain and torture leading up to those final moments. And there probably was a lot of pain for the people around the victim too.
The commercials say depression hurts, and it’s not far off. Depression does hurt, for many people. More than a quarter of Americans suffer some sort of mental disorder each year, according to National Institute of Health statistics. And 35,000 Americans committed suicide in 2007. Beyond that, families and friends suffer along with those with mental health disorders.
But despite the numbers there doesn’t seem to be an understanding of mental health issues. There is no better way to see it than when there’s a prominent suicide case, like Junior Seau yesterday. As soon as the news broke, I saw people saying on social media he and others who commit suicide are selfish. And still others show a lack of understanding in how debilitating depression can be.
I’ve suffered some form of depression since I was 26 years old, almost a decade, perhaps longer. My father has been suffering from similar problems since I was 16 years old. I know both sides of the story of depression as someone who suffers and as someone who has watched a loved one battle it. For many years I’ve lived in silence about what I suffer through, although my friends and family know quite well about my struggles. People just don’t understand.
There are days where I feel like I’m swimming with no life raft in site, and this is despite being on medication right now. I have been on and off of medication since I was 26, and I have coping mechanisms for dealing with those terrible days. Usually it circles around talking with the people I care about (and they understand this and are awesome people for just listening too) or just burying myself in work or something creative. Photography, writing and more aren’t just things I enjoy. They also are coping mechanisms and have been for a long time.
But you would never know from the outside how much I can suffer because I hide it because people don’t understand. You get told to snap out of it, which anyone who suffers from a mental illness knows isn’t possible. Or, worse, people judge you. And in this business, that is a scary prospect. Journalism is an anti-depressant of sorts and saved me at some of my worst moments. I have done some of my best work in some of the worst times in my life. But I worry people will judge me and not hire me or want to work with me because I have depression. I fear the stigma.
It’s why I appreciate when someone takes a stand on depression and want to educate people. I’ve been following Michael Silver’s Twitter feed today and how he is taking such a stand, for example. Many thanks to him for doing so.
And I want to be part of the solution too in educating people on depression issues. I’ve been talking about writing a book about people like me — those of us who suffer from these problems every day but are able to live a full life. We have a disease, yes, but we don’t let it rule our lives. We are journalists, accountants, engineers and even professional athletes. I want every chapter of this book to be someone’s story. If you want to be involved with this, I’d love to hear from you.
And even if you don’t want to be involved in my book project, I am here to talk. Talking helps me, and I’m sure it helps others. If you ever need someone just to listen, don’t hesitate. I am here. I suffer too, and you don’t need to do it alone or live in silence.