There is a real stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide. It is scary to speak about suicide. If I talk about it, will people think less of me and my family? Will others believe me? I have been scared to let others know the family secret. For years I have been asked by many family members not to talk about my husband’s suicide. They don’t see that any good could come from talking about it- only push us away from the norm. So I had to give them that space for many years. I let them have time and in while giving them that, I studied and learned everything I could.
It’s been nine years and I still feel prompted to tell my story. I realize there is a huge risk to this, not only for me but my family.
I think it’s so interesting the more I have studied mental illness that it’s a disease just like diabetes. My husband had diabetes and we were not embarrassed to tell anyone he had that. He was highly perfectionist and that’s a “personality” so why is it so hard to say someone has depression? I think our problem was we didn’t even know he had depression. There wasn’t much information about depression 10 years ago. We learned about diabetes, and he went to his annual doctor appointment but his feelings of being “low” most of the time was never discussed. With his diabetes, his sugar lows and highs became his norm. Every time he was depressed I shrugged it off as this is what comes with this disease. I didn’t even think back to before he had the disease at 26 there were huge signs of depression.
Jay ended up taking his own life and all of us were speechless (in all ways!). Most people that knew him would have never guessed that he would choose to commit suicide. He didn’t look or act the part! He was a good-looking, middle-class, highly-functioning individual who had a family with 6 kids! He had told me many times he wanted to, but I thought it was a threat- not a real possibility. None of us know what changed that day and we will never know, but it doesn’t change the fact that he is gone. I believe he would want us to use his story to show others that something can be done about it. At least change the stigma and start a discussion. Doctors have proved that awareness is the key and that just talking through a situation can help.
Please help us -no matter what piece of the suicide story you are on- the one who feels depressed, the one whose family member has a mental illness, or the one who talks about it. The stigma can change. It has to!