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Depression is dreadful; suicide’s never an option

Published: 
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Whatever you think you know about depression, look at the literature again. Even if you feel certain of the information you have, do some more research. 

If you’ve been diagnosed as clinically depressed, engage the available material/narrative some more, especially the part about the hope in living after such a prognosis.

I’m chiming in on the death by suicide of actor Robin Williams. Such a passing is regrettable, yet it’s the profile that would bring global attention to the daily despairing struggles of people with mental illness (PMI) who ordinarily are overlooked.

Given Williams’s larger-than-life on-screen persona the volume of coverage could be a landmark in the discussion of mental illnesses, especially depression. I’m thinking that that kind of attention should bring some focus even to my plight in my little constituency.

I’m excited about the possibility that such amplification of the dreadful disease and circumstances leading to Williams’s suicide could cause someone somewhere to make a decision to focus on easing the suffering of another person.

My life, however, would not be a good place to judge if any of that has happened. One week prior to his demise and up until last Sunday I’ve experienced many shades of blue–me one and God, until I chastened my few friends about overlooking me.

And that’s always my fear with celebrity associations–deaths or speaking out–and the subsequent saturation about illnesses such as depression. The hype is usually is just that: hype, which unfortunately does not provide the sustained education that’s needed, nor move people to action beyond the reportage. 

I take opportunity today to reiterate that depression is not sadness or a bad mood. It’s a biological disease with social and psychological implications marked by persistent low mood, loss of interest in stuff that once brought pleasure and other factors.

But because everyone’s emotional make-up allows for the experience of low moods, many people ignore the facts about the debilitating effect of the clinical syndrome that is depression. Many believe they have experienced depression and, since they have got over that incident, you should, too. 

Some people do not believe it’s a real disease. They recognise a raving mad person, can detect a schizophrenic, and so on, but for the silent disorders and often-undetected suffering, they remain in blinding ignorance.

When we behave as though depression is a normal everyday function over which a person has control, we belittle people’s suffering. When we consider them as weak not to be able to overcome, that’s contrary to the strength it takes a depressive to prevail against assailing negativity and rebound, to be derailed again, weakened for a time by the effect of the disease. And then rebound, again!

I know people who’ve been suicidal. I know family members say they’re “playing the fool” and “should snap out of it” and, in the midst of my own traumas, in the dark of the nights, I’ve availed myself to help shield them against demons of despair and hopelessness.

That blindsiding of those with hidden disabilities with diatribe as “I was depressed, too” should be deemed a crime with stiff penalties. People who make such statements should be made to inhabit the bodies/life of the depressed for a time.

Only recently a registered nurse heard me share at a forum and she was very imposing in her suggestion that I do not leave without talking to her. Then, on her total experience of “having only just started a course on mental health,” she tells me she too feels depressed at times but she overcomes. “I have depression, too,” she says.

So, I asked when she was diagnosed and she said, “Diagnosed?” and fumbled over the rest of the conversation. It takes a lot of patience/respect for others when one is confronted with such unawareness and, from a healthcare professional. While I sympathise and empathise with William’s plight though, having had days when the grief alone from my isolation could kill me, I stand opposed to the suggestion that the “genie is free” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com).

When in response to Williams’ death the Oscar-awarding Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science tweeted “You’re free, Genie”, a line from Alladin in which Williams was the voice of the genie, it unintentionally signified suicide as a liberating act. Suicide is neither a response nor a solution to any issue. When despair, isolation and pain become too overwhelming to bear, suicide might seem the easy way out, but there are always other options. 

Experts suggest you give yourself at least 48 hours to think through your decision. Talking to someone you trust and having someone stay with you are better options than trying to work it out alone. Reaching out to a crisis line also is another way to get support. In T&T, Lifeline can be reached at 625-1031/3806. Check out The Science of Depression: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOK1tKFFIQI#t=195