Thursday, 23 June 2011
When a suicide occurs, many people have mixed emotions and opinions. The ones who were close with the victim have one opinion, often mixed with a myriad of confusing emotions and sadness, while outside opinions can go either way. What some commentators are saying about a recent suicide in Florida, however, shows how misunderstanding of depressive disorders creates so much stigma around mental illness.
A man in his early 50s committed suicide this past weekend and the St. Petersburg Times covered the story. While reading the story, I felt awful for his family and community members and all of our hearts go out to them. What spoke out more to me was how trapped and alone this man must have felt to do what he did. Then I got to reading some of the comments and I am appalled at what some individuals are saying about this tragedy.
"No one forced him to start breaking laws and kill himself. I'm sorry, but it's his own decision and his own fault. I feel bad that he has had difficulties in his life. Well, guess what...so have most of us."
"If you've got time to [post] on facebook, you have time to pull yourself outta the gutter... people are pathetic. Good riddance to a nobody taking up space on the road."
"What a dumb [person]. Over $40 of crap? Good riddance indeed."
The fact is that untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide. It is often not because they don't have time or don't want to get help, but for those who know they have depression, they may not know where to turn, especially if there is a lack of a strong support system. For those who are not even aware of any underlying depressive disorder, the danger lies in that alone and not knowing what is causing their feelings and reactions.
When incidents like this occur, and there is a lack of understanding about what depression is and how it affects individuals, stigma around mental illness creeps in and colors outsiders' reactions. It is important to become educated on what depression actually is, what are some possible causes and triggers, and where to get help. It's also important to recognize the signs and symptoms to get yourself or someone you love screened and get help early on. Depression is not just a mood, but a serious disease that can be treated with proper intervention and care. Just like cancer, or heart disease, if left untreated, it can and has killed many.