You learn things when you read them. Sometimes heartwarming, sometimes jarring. I was jarred one morning last week:
"[Name of deceased] spent more than a decade struggling with increasingly severe depression but the worsening of his illness coupled with lack of proper medical care led him to take his own life."It's not often that families choose to be so overt when cause of death is suicide. For as long as I can remember, members of my own family have barely been able to utter the word in conversation. Otherwise well meaning people often shunt - sometimes subtly, sometimes less so - those who suffer from diseases of the mind to the margins. They won't say it, of course, but their quiet message is that it is a weakness more than a true affliction. Even seeking help is often looked down upon - indeed, I remember the tone used in otherwise friendly discussions at get-togethers to describe those who had "gone to see their shrink." I shuddered then, and I shudder now.
So when I saw this announcement, I couldn't get this poor soul's family out of my mind. By choosing to lift the veil of secrecy, they showed such courage in the face of such unimaginable loss. At that moment, I wanted to reach through my screen and let them know just how much I felt for them, and how much I appreciated their decision.
Mental illness lives in the neglected shadows where few of us would choose to look. It forces sufferers to endure its ravages in silence. It condemns the families of its ultimate victims to live not only with the loss of a loved one, but the stigma of the fact that it was by one's own hand.
I can't help but wonder if things would be different if that stigma didn't exist, and if we spoke about it in the same terms as, say, cancer or heart disease. Either way, please consider this entry my effort to start raising the volume.
Your turn: Please share a perspective on mental illness, if you've got one.