Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression: The Silent Killer

The internet will surely be on fire today with discussions on depression after the shocking and beyond tragic death of Robin Williams. It feels strange to mourn the death of someone we never met in person, but who was with so many of us from the very beginning of our childhood. One of the first shows I remember watching as a kid was Mork & Mindy. Robin was one of those actors who could make just anyone laugh, whether in a child's cartoon or with one of his raunchy stand-up comedy bits.

I feel an inherent need to address the disease on a personal level. I've touched the subjects of suicide and depression in several of my books. In What I've Done, the book starts with Lily's attempted suicide. In Adam's List, Jewels is battling with depression, though not well (using "booze and sarcasm"). This was not my way of capitalizing on a scary disease, it was my way of putting real life out there as I've battled with depression on and off for decades.

I made the decision a few years back to go off medication as it was completely numbing my creative side. It was scary to put myself out there without a parachute so to speak, and I definitely wouldn't recommend anyone try this without consulting their doctor first. I don't know that I would still be clinically depressed by definition, but there are still days when I'm so down it's like I'm in a dark tunnel, all alone. Still, I'm always able to put on a good show when I'm down so a lot of people don't know how hard I'm struggling. I think this is true for a lot of people dealing with depression. You never know who is struggling with inner demons. Look at Robin Williams—he was one of the most hilarious people on the planet.

I recently saw a friend post something online that seemed to be a subtle cry for help. I think most people took the post as either sarcasm or some kind of inside thing, and ignored it. I honestly had to look twice before it rang danger bells. Another friend emailed me, asking if we say something about the post. In the end we both decided that we'd rather do something about it than sit on our hands and discover our friend had committed suicide in the night. While I was talking online to the friend in pain, waiting for their family to check in on them in person, they mentioned I was "the only one who cared" because no one else had said anything. I told them that was total crap and most likely his friends and family weren't online at the time. But it really made me think. We've become so dependent on social media that we have nearly forgotten how to interact in real life. This friend was sitting in their dark tunnel, reaching out to anyone who may have been online, when the people who cared the most about them were probably away from their phones and computers, oblivious to the cry for help.

Life is hard. Everyone constantly has to deal with change and death and obstacles and disappointments and failure. It's a never-ending roller-coaster of emotions, and we're just expected to swallow them and carry on. If someone you know seems a little "off" and you're not sure just how much they're hurting, REACH OUT TO THEM. Let them know you care. Even if it's a complete stranger on the internet. You never know who's hurting and secretly hiding their pain.

For more information on the warning signs, or what you should do if you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-TALK.


  1. Oh Jen those pics of Robin and the quotes gave me chills.
    Thanks for putting this out there and sharing your struggles. You've mentioned so many things we need to be aware of.
    I think we live in a society where we are expected to be happy and show our game face all the time. But life isn't like that. We hide our sadness cuz we are afraid of what others will think or of bringing them down. But we really need each other.
    This incident really has brought awareness to the forefront. It's just so tragic it took something like this.
    And you reach out too girl. We all need to when we need help. People want to help. Sometimes we just don't know it's needed.

  2. Ꮙ ♥ ƸӜƷ☀ ☂🌈 Jen, you are so right....we must reach out and help others. My brother suffers from PSTD at 67 yrs old, a veteran returned from Viet Nam in 1968 and he has never gotten over it. Yesterday with Robin Williams blasted everywhere, his daughter was in a car accident (all OK), last of one of his veteran besties died with cancer, another friends daughter in 4 wheeler accident (also out of her coma and doing better), he pretty much with booze and loneliness was a mess. Lives in Superior, WI so he could be closer to his daughter. He left the Green Bay, WI area and friends where he worked for same phone company all his LIFE. Has sold his motorcycle, vette, old cars/pickups, snowmobile and other toys. The words you described with booze & sarcasm are a great description. I LOVE him DEARLY and try to encourage him, plus listen to him daily when feeling low as we chat everyday on FB. He needs some HELP again and I totally can see were this can go undetected as people laugh & smile on the outside and are dying on the inside. I have some days that I can really catch myself falling in to a pit....but have been lucky enough to pull back out of it. We all must be there for each other and watch for the warning signals and REACH out a HELPING HAND IMMEDIATELY. Thanks for sharing information and awareness on such a silent killer. LOVE & Strength to continue WINNING the Battle of Depression/Suicide Ꮙ ♥ ƸӜƷ☀ ☂🌈

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Val. Hugs to you and your brother!

  3. Great post, Jen. So many people are upset by Robin's passing. If we can take anything good from his death, it's that perhaps the awareness of depression and mental health will be highlighted. Lots of us suffer from anxiety and depression from time to time, but for many it's severe. You know yourself. I can imagine you are the type of person to wear a smile even when you aren't feeling great. Thanks for sharing x.