Quote of the Week #40

sun-Do you know what Vincent Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Mindy McCready, Junior Seau, Ernest Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, and Sylvia Plath have in common?

If you said they’re all famous, you are correct. But what else?

If I added Robin Williams to the list, would you know then? They all died from suicide.

Have you ever had anyone close to you die? Has someone wanting to offer comfort said “Time heals?” Do you think that’s true? DOES time heal?

I tend to agree with Rose Kennedy, mother of John F. Kennedy who said of the phrase ‘time heals’… “I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

On this day 8 years ago my youngest brother, (of 4) just weeks shy of his 30th birthday, died tragically. Like Robin Williams and the other famous people on the list above, he chose to end his life.family-0049

If you’ve ever lost anyone to suicide, you probably know how shocking this is, especially if you were not in touch with this person regularly. I had no idea that my brother was unhappy, and had been for years. I had no idea he had been struggling with depression. I had no idea he was in such pain that he felt compelled to end his misery rather than continue a miserable life.

family-0050-2In 2013, 41,149 Americans killed themselves.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in our country, surpassing deaths from car crashes. For young people ages 14-24, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death.

Every day approximately 105 Americans die from suicide. There is one death from suicide every 13 minutes.

In the 5 months leading up to my brother’s death, I was “off the grid” so to speak, immersed in my own struggle of thru-hiking the 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail. I was in the woods everyday, away from a phone most of the time, caught up in my own challenges and mostly out of touch with my family, checking in only occasionally with my Mom who lives in western NY state. Like me, my brothers had moveme-d out of Buffalo years earlier, settling down in cities far away from the rest of the family. We were all scattered and separate and it was not unusual to go weeks or months without talking on the phone.

Could things have been different if a family member or friend had suggested getting help? If someone had been there to listen and to understand? If someone had offered words of support rather than judgment? Of course we will never know the answers as the one thing that is always true in life is that you cannot go back. Time gone is gone forever.

With time, the pain of losing someone is less, but it never goes away. One learns to live with it, realizing that the crushing sadness can return at any moment, drifting into your mind on a million vessels… a song, word, phrase, picture, reference, movie, event, sound, dream, thought, name, memory, smell, gesture, laugh… To each we are defenseless. All steal our happiness momentarily and leave us with an aching emptiness that is both nameless and shapeless. It’s like we forever carry inside us a tiny shriveled-up balloon that can suddenly grow with a little or a lot of air at any moment, and once inflated it may stay that way for a second or a minute, hour, or day. We become actors, doing the best we can to ignore it, to go on as if all is well, sometimes successful. Sometimes not.

Did you knowme--2 that men are 4x more likely to kill themselves than women?

Our society has a terrible stereotype about depression.

Even though depression affects 20-25% of Americans 18 or older in a given year, only half of them get treatment.

Probably because of the stigma associated with it. People mistakenly believe that a person who is depressed is weak.  That they can just “get over it” or that if they really wanted it’s just a case of “mind over matter.”

It’s easy to guess why men would be more likely to commit suicide–after all, aren’t they supposed to be strong and capable? Risking ridicule for not being “manly,” for being weak, for being in need of help… none of these are welcome labels.  So, as I suspect was true in my brother’s case, it might be easier to hide the pain. And to deal with it in the only way they know how–with a permanent escape.

Please join me in changing the stereotype about depression–a powerful mental illness that cannot be cured by thoughts alone. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak. Help IS available and lives CAN be changed.

“To make a difference in someone’s life you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful or perfect. You just have to care enough to be there.” –Mandy Hale


Here is some information about suicide, from organizations who know a lot more than me.

Common misconceptions about suicide

Understanding suicide from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

More information about suicide from the National Institute of Mental Health

Key research findings from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Recognizing warning signs of a suicidal individual

What to do if someone you know is suicidal

Facts about suicide from SAVE–Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

This entry was posted in For My Soul, Quote of the Week, Wisdom for your Wednesday and tagged , , , .

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