Suicide is a symptom not a set of instructions. But as it manifests in the illness of depression, it can masquerade as a command, which sounds reasonable to the individual who is coping with it.
I have learned a lot about the brain and how fragile AND resilient it is. One thing I have learned is to not say someone committed suicide. Someone dies by or from suicide or from complications of depression, just as you would say someone died from a heart attack or from cancer. Someone who is suffering from this illness doesn’t make a choice as the word commit implies.
There are many forms of depression just as there are forms of cancer. You might say in a general way a person is fighting cancer and then you might follow-up with what type of cancer. And depending on what you hear, you would have a reaction to it as you know certain types of cancer are more aggressive than others. Depression is similar: Some are low-grade, episodic and others are persistent and aggressive. While a person may have “killed herself,” ultimately it was the depression that killed her.
Along the same language lines, instead of saying “I am depressed,” we encourage people to express it as “I have depression.” People don’t declare “I am cancer” but that they have cancer. It’s a way for those suffering to separate themselves from the embarrassment that could be implied by saying “I am.”
Think about the illness of a cold. “I have a cold,” which has its own course and while symptoms can be managed, masked or minimized the cold can’t be cured, as opposed to a person’s experience of temperature cold. “I am cold so now I am going to get a jacket to solve my problem.” People are complicated and so many things are dependent on individual factors as to understanding the “why” of a person’s mental state.
It’s not easy; however, depression can be treated and managed. If you are struggling, force yourself to reach out to the Suicide Prevention Hotline, your local emergency room or the person sitting next to you. And if you are the person being reached out to, then access support to help your friend or family member by calling 911 and ask for a crisis intervention team.
With treatment and hard work, we can make it through one more day. It is hard work to fight demons within and the demons without. But we can and will do it.