The following contribution is made by a very dear friend. She and her family suffered a tragic loss in 1986 when her brother took his life. With over 4.8 million American survivors of suicide of a friend, family member, or loved one, Cheryl writes from one family member’s perspective on suicide and depression. Teresa MI Schaefer, PhD
Suicide and Depression: A Survivor’s Perspective
Written by Guest Contributor, Cheryl Baldwin of Jupiter, Florida
I hope to never get a phone call like that again. It was my father telling me my younger brother had jumped in front of a train. He was dead.
Here’s what you need to know about my brother, David. He was a genius, enrolled at The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He had countless friends and a lovely girlfriend. He had a loving family that couldn’t be more proud of all he was doing with his life. Yet all these gifts and a promising future couldn’t save him from whatever hell he was living in.
Depression is cunning and baffling, much like substance abuse and addiction. You think you’re doing OK, but it’s waiting for you to slip up at every turn, just so it can take you out. Like many diseases, depression requires constant vigilance and preventive measures. Unfortunately, depression is not a disease we like to talk about, although it’s exactly what could save lives.
If you think suicide is a taboo subject today, imagine how difficult it was to discuss when I lost David in 1986. At that time, being in therapy or, can you imagine, being on medication for depression, was a private matter. So how is it that in today’s world, where commercials tout solutions for your bad moods and everyone we know has a therapist, we still can’t talk about mental illness? Why is there shame? We don’t ask to feel this way, the same way people don’t request cancer. It’s time to get over our fear and treat those suffering from depression with compassion and honor the strength it takes to seek help.
Speaking of strength, following the death of Robin Williams, I heard him called a coward for taking his own life. That it was wrong to leave his family behind to suffer. I assure you that those who make the decision to take their own lives simply can’t find another solution out of their pain. It has nothing to do with strength of character or being weak. It’s simply the only way they know. Yes, the survivors of suicide, such as myself, are left devastated and sometimes questioning. But I know in my heart that David’s pain was far greater than what he knew his loved ones would be left with. He was the farthest thing from a coward.
My hope is that people can become open to the reality that depression is a disease just as others and deserves the recognition, support and resources to combat its devastating consequences. If you are in pain, there are resources to help. And seeking help to find your way out of your suffering takes courage, which should be recognized. There is help. You are not alone. You are brave.
EASTERN SHORE CRISIS RESPONSE
Sante Group Hotline 1-888-407-8018
24-hour national crisis intervention hotline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-422-0009 or 410-749-HELP
LIFE CRISIS CENTER HOTLINE Provides counseling for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, suicide prevention, support groups, emergency shelter, shelter referral, medical care, and assistance with the process of prosecution.
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF SUICIDOLOGY Resource Links