Over the last few years I have dealt with depression and mental illness in many forms. Personally-a minor depression which caused me to constantly doubt myself and put myself down, never being able to convince myself that I was doing the right thing or I was doing well. I was completely unable to see the good I had done, no matter how many people told me otherwise.
I also have been dealing with a much more serious form of depression in someone very close to me. It was heartbreaking to me that this person I love dearly was struggling so much internally. Watching them seek and receive treatment and walk the long LONG road of recovery has been equal parts almost impossibly hard to watch and beautifully wonderful watching this person get back to being who they were before they got depression.
Why do I bring this up? Because so many people think that depression and mental illness is a fault in the affected person that cannot be fixed.
In reality, depression is something that happens TO a person, just as you or I get a cold at any time of the year. Depression happens to someone without any warning. The problem is, unlike a cold, where you cannot hide your runny nose and sneezes, depression can be hidden, festering into a horrible, system-wide attack.
The best example I keep coming back to is the death of Robin Williams. “But he committed suicide,” you counter.
I disagree. It is true, he took his own life, but it was the result of depression. Depression and mental illness are the CAUSE of suicide. Here is the best example I can think of: Lets take a cancer patient. They have been suffering from cancer for years. Getting treatments, seeing different doctors, but the treatments don’t work. When the patient dies, the cause of their death is more than likely organ failure–the liver and kidneys stop working, or the lungs can no longer exchange gasses–and that is why the patient dies. But instead of saying they died from lung or kidney failure, we say they died of cancer, because that’s what we could see on the surface.
When someone commits suicide, that is what you see on the surface, but underneath, it is really the depression or mental illness that caused their death.
Suicide prevention is not what we should be focusing on, managing and treating mental illness and depression is what we should be advocating. Mental illness and depression are the disease, not suicide.
These comics explain depression in a way I never could. Please read them, please look to your family and friends and neighbors and support them if they are experiencing this disease. Or show them to the same people if you are experiencing symptoms of these diseases.