In the past 18 months, I was forced to visit the cemetery twice, as I buried my grandparents. Everyone who was present stood graveside and shared innumerable tears. Although it was agonizing, I was relieved that death would not be part of my life, at least for a while.
Unfortunately, my sobs returned much sooner than I had wanted, much less expected. While on a trip to Peru this August, I received a text informing me that one of my closest friends had decided to take his own life.
My skin chilled with confusion and heartbreak. I kept asking myself, “Why would someone who had plans for that evening, someone who was about to start his sophomore year of college, someone who was so full of life, do something like this?”
I used to believe that suicide was the coward’s way out of life. But now with more knowledge, I can no longer refute the fact that depression is a serious illness. The disease must be confronted by the medical community, as well as the general public.
Almost 15 million Americans are affected by clinical depression every day. That number is minuscule compared to the 350 million people who suffer from the disorder worldwide. Although it is disturbing to associate depression with suicide, it must be done, because this ailment is the cause of more than two-thirds of the 30,000 reported suicides in the United States each year.
Women, minorities, people between the ages of 45 and 64, people with less than a high school education, and those previously married tend to succumb most frequently to the evils of depression. These data, though, are derived only from the individuals who chose to report their illness. My friend fell into none of these groups, and if just one person had noticed a symptom, he might still be here with us today.
Friends and family are fooled by the signs, as they covertly hide in the victims’ exuberant and seemingly normal personalities. Think of depression like carbon monoxide, a chemical compound that’s not visible to the naked eye, but is still deadly.
When my grandfather finally lost his long battle with Parkinson’s disease, I was prepared to handle his fate. But as I wept in South America for my friend 3,500 miles away, I felt completely backstabbed by the morals that I trusted.
Depression is very serious and life–threatening, but unlike amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), or other diseases that don’t currently have a cure, the pains that come with the former can be assuaged. Just talking to someone can make a person feel leaps and bounds better than they did prior.
Unfortunately, however, 80 percent of depressed people choose not to seek any treatment. This is why finding someone who you can speak to about your problems is so crucial for recovery and future happiness.
Before famous actor and comedian Robin Williams lost his fight with depression, he said, “I used to think the worst thing in life is to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.”
The possibility of saving individuals in danger of losing their lives is exactly why I urge someone with signs of depression or anyone who knows of a friend with suicidal tendencies to speak out, because you could just save a life.
Two Wednesdays ago was World Suicide Prevention Day, and I was encouraged by the multitude of families with a history of suicide who shared their stories with the rest of the world. It takes a lot of courage to recount the discomfort and grief, but sharing these stories is also key in raising awareness for this fatal illness.
My hope is that this article achieves the aforementioned goal because, although it can’t save my childhood friend, it can help the millions of people presently battling depression and thoughts of suicide. If feeling dejected, pick up the phone and call a friend or a loved one, because I’m sure that person would be happy to make you feel better.
In the song “How to Save a Life,” Isaac Slade, lead singer for The Fray, sings, “I would have stayed up with you all night, had I known how to save a life.”
Please don’t wait until it’s too late, or else you’ll be stuck wondering what could have been.
I still remember our last time hanging out, our last meal, and our last conversation like it was yesterday. Now, there are no tomorrows. Rest easy, buddy.