Another celebrity had killed themselves, causing everyone to debate about suicide. Some went off about the selfishness of his act while others point out that this is evidence that the mental health system in America needs to be better. Some discuss this in anger, “He’s rich and famous, what did he have to be depressed about.” Others fight back: “Money doesn’t solve everything and make you happy.” Then there is the “What about the kids?” I won’t engage in these arguments because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. Another person lost their battle with depression and made a deliberate choice to end their life. Depression doesn’t care if you’re rich and famous or poor or a parent.
Mental illness is such a difficult battle that people struggle with. Even the most put together person you know may struggle with this in silence. Your best friend could be struggling with it in silence. The problem is that they struggle in silence. Even today with all of the PSAs and media dedicated to helping people, there is still such a stigma about struggling with any mental illness, whether it’s an anxiety disorder or depression. People who struggle with these things are led to believe that this somehow makes them weak. You’re not weak. In fact, I would argue that every day that you survive with these struggles actually makes you stronger than most. This does not mean that I view suicide as a weakness. I think it’s an end result of a battle that just could not be won.
I have witnessed the effects of suicide twice in my life. I have grappled with my feelings on it, personally feeling the ripples these types of events cause. When I was in high school, my cousin committed suicide. I remember how that event shook me. He had stopped by before it happened under circumstances that later should have occurred didn’t make sense. He used to pick up the soda cans and turn them in for some extra cash. He asked if we had any when I answered the door. I yelled down to my brother, asking if there were any. No. There were none. I wanted to get back to my art project I was working on and I was a dumb teenage girl. He stayed for a moment talking to me, hugged me, and left. Sometimes I remember this moment and he said he loved me. Other times I just remember that unique smile and wave as he left. I stood there waving goodbye. Sometime I think this death broke me. I never cried at a funeral since that one. There, I sobbed uncontrollably. My older brother put his arm around me when I did, trying to console me. There was no consolation. Years later, this is all so fresh in my head. He was an innocent. He was a kind soul and the world is worse off without him in it. He was arguably one of the nicest and coolest people I had ever known. Years later, I stood by as my husband’s family had to handle this same struggle.
You would think that I would believe there’s a heaven where they would be watching down on us. I was raised in CCD classes, in a religion that used to insist that this was a sin. If there were a heaven, sinners would not be in it. Though if there were a God, these two incredible people would still be with us. They should be with us. Our lives are significantly richer life knowing these two men.
I struggled with writing this, I admit. Are these things that I should talk about? What will people think? Do they think I am glorifying suicide? The reality is that my concern about writing this is really the problem. We should talk about it. Raising awareness for an illness like depression is just as important as it is for any other disease. It would be disingenuous to not talk about it, especially when it is something that admittedly haunts me. Simply telling a person who is depressed to get over it or it will get better is a meaningless attempt to fix someone. Spoiler alert: you can’t fix a person with anxiety or depression or any other mental illness. All of the medication and psych visits in the world can’t fix them. You can merely support them, accept them, and do whatever you can to make them feel loved and needed. Be there when they are sad as much as when they are happy. Make sure that they know you are here for them. Do everything in your power, even try to get help for them. However, just remember: Even then, it may not be enough. It is not your fault. Sometimes they just suffer in silence and it just happens. It is not your fault.