Depression and the long goodbye

In recent years, there have been so many thoughtful, intelligent first-person accounts of average people suffering from depression that one wonders why in 2014 people have such a difficult time accepting the notion that the most complicated part of the human body can break, just as any bone can.

The latest comes from Indianapolis, Ind., where the widow of TV reporter Rick Dawson, who killed himself last September, has written an explanation of what drove him to suicide.

The day Rick chose to kill himself was no different than the hundreds of days we’d experienced leading up to it, and I had no reason to believe it would be any different than the hundreds that stretched out before us.

So why that day? Was it the notice I found that the electricity was about to be turned off again? Was it the pending conference with our attorney and the bank’s attorneys about the foreclosure? Was it the anxiety of potential job interviews? All of these things or none? I am learning to live with not knowing.

So why do I choose to pour out all of this, to reveal what most of our society views as flaws in the successful American male? Shortly after Rick died, a dear friend’s father-in-law attempted suicide, a man who’d been a pillar in his community for decades, a minister and so much more. Then the successful author Ned Vizzini, who’d opened so many eyes to the ravages of depression among young people, happily married, father to a young son, walked off the roof of his parents’ apartment building at a holiday gathering.

NAMI finds that men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women, and without the warning signs. My man is one of those men. What will it take to open our eyes to the toll being exacted?

The reactions to Rick’s death were nothing short of stunning. I was overwhelmed by the outpourings from others who either survive depression every day, live with someone who struggles with depression, or just wanted me to know how Rick’s story touched them.

I think he would have been shocked, seeing the devastation of his closest co-anchor, the wrenching anguish of our son’s best friend, the sheer bewilderment in the faces of our friends and colleagues at his service. Would knowing have changed anything for him? I’m sad to say I don’t believe it would have. That dreadful veil of depression kept Rick from seeing how others would be affected by his decision as much as it kept him from realizing how loved he was. He was caught on an awful carousel of mental and emotional despair.

I am still often asked if Rick’s suicide makes me angry. No, it just makes me sad. When I found his body, I just kept telling him I was sorry, over and over. I was sorry that he’d felt that was his only choice, because it wasn’t. I’m sorry we lost a good man, I’m sorry we lost our future together, because we didn’t have to.

We don’t have to live like this. We don’t have to bear it and we don’t have to watch those we love suffer either.

Depression is treatable, but we must change the stigma that forces sufferers and their families to hide it. Experts say at least one in four Americans lives with a mental illness. Is it you? Is it someone you care about? Research from other countries shows that if you treat illnesses like depression the same way you treat a broken bone or cancer, by making it socially permissible and easily addressed by a doctor, lives will be saved.

(h/t: Vince Tuss)