How Do We Help Those Suffering With Depression?

It’s Not Your Fault

I was extremely sad to hear of Robin Williams’ suicide. This is a topic that I, unfortunately, understand intimately. I’ve seen a lot of comments in various Facebook threads about Depression. Things like: check in, give hugs, ask if they’re okay. And all that is fine, in general. But when you’re talking about potential suicide, none of that offers any long-term help for either sufferers or those who love them.

When I was 20, I lived with my boyfriend, Brent. He was a recovering drug addict (7 years clean) who had pulled himself out from darker places than I could imagine. When I met him he was a ski patrol putting himself through college to become an EMT.

I didn’t realize he had suicidal thoughts until, after a particularly disturbing week of him never leaving the house, showering, or opening the blinds, I was at the end of my rope. I was worried about him. I noticed he’d written in a journal, and, against my better judgment, read it. I felt horrible doing it, but I didn’t know how else to find out what was going on with him. In it, I found a suicide note. Addressed to me.

I had no idea what to do. Part of me felt badly that I broke his trust and read his private journal, but the other part of me—the side that was pissed off to read he planned on me finding his body—won out. So I confronted him. It was a horrible awful conversation that eventually turned into a discussion of options. He didn’t want to take medication because he’d worked so hard to break his drug addiction and turn his life around. I could rationally understand that. The emotional component to Depression however entailed bringing the toxicity in his head into the relationship. Ours was extremely unhealthy for me. (Many years later I realized it was emotionally abusive.) I knew I needed out of the relationship but I didn’t want to leave my friend alone. Despite the fact that I loved him and wanted the best for him, I couldn’t let myself be dragged into the darkness.

I saw that it was a cycle, but that’s all I knew. I told him this and offered to point out when he was in it. I likened it to having my period—not a great comparison, but it’s what I had available. Basically, there is always a point where I’m certain I’ve gained at least 300lbs and things are so emotionally jarring that I can’t think straight. But then I remember that I’m about to start my period, and somehow this knowledge alone helps to put it all back in perspective and go about my day. So, however poor the comparison, I offered to point out to Brent every time he started this Depression cycle, hoping the knowledge would help him gain perspective.

For a few months this worked well. We were no longer together, though still living together, and it felt like we had an effective system. He was even accepted to a culinary academy to pursue his dream, and I was going back to Grad School in Australia. It seemed like we’d figured it out.

So, while I was on a trip with my best friend, and everything seemed on the up-and-up for he and I both, he hung himself in the home we shared.

When I’d had time to process it, I realized it was premeditated. He had friends staying with him (so I wouldn’t find him). He went to the store and bought rope, picked a huge fight with me so that I’d be angry and presumably wouldn’t care that he died, and he wrote out a will. It wasn’t a crazy out-of-control moment.

He knew what he was doing. I know I couldn’t have stopped it. And I knew I had to get out of the relationship. But what could I have done to help him? What specific steps are there to help someone with Depression get help, without having to go into that darkness with them?

This issue is too pervasive not to have an answer. I don’t have it, but if someone else does, please share. We can work together to make that information widely available so that this stops happening.

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