Saturday, February 18, 2017

Depression; Suicide

I've been waiting a while to write this article. I have posted several articles on bipolar disorder and depression on the Circuitry page. I've held off on writing an about suicide. Although I feel like I have a lot to say, and some good insight, having self-harmed myself and attempted suicide in the past, I was really afraid that a friend or family member might panic, thinking that I have those thoughts again, and I was composing a cry for help. 

Let me make it abundantly clear that have absolutely no intentions of harming myself in any way.

First I'd like to revisit the issue of the stigma of mental health issues, and then get into suicide awareness and prevention.

Recently a friend posted a video from Paul Joseph Watson, a right wing contributor for an online media outlet, posted a video on YouTube titled The Truth About Depression, . It was a seemingly angry rant. Watson, obviously has never experienced depression, and seemingly does not know anyone who has. He compares depression to the modern phenomenon of waving a flag of victim-hood and linking it to the many unusual sub-movements within feminism. His argument is that depression is an inability to cope with events or circumstances that are unpleasant, virtue signaling, and mental fragility. He goes on to say that a big part of this epidemic of depression is in part due to the fact that drug companies are pumping out new psychiatric medications like a candy factory, and that doctors are ultimately enabling symptoms, severity and duration by over-prescribing their patients.

I am torn between two competing opinions. On the one hand, I completely disagree with Watson's assessment of depression. In my prior series Three Settings on the Dial, I addressed different kinds of depression. I showed how there is a difference between having a really bad day, and having something else, elusive, that has taken control over you. There's a difference between going through a break-up or getting cut off on the freeway, and having no energy; having the feeling to withdraw, avoid social interactions or work, and having feelings of self-harm.

On the other hand, I tend to agree with him in regards to drug companies creating new psych meds, and doctors prescribing them at an alarming rate. The problem lies in the fact that drug companies are not charities. They do not exist for the benevolence of helping the sick. Just like Coca-cola or Frito-Lay, their function is to make a profit, even if their products prove ultimately harmful to their consumers.

I've battled depression since I was in the 6th grade, having serious bouts throughout my life. The first time I was prescribed medication was just after high-school. I remember taking amitriptyline; and I remember that it actually made the symptoms worse. I went the next three years without anything, my depression had lifted on its own. In 1996, I started back taking medications. First for anxiety, then for depression. The problem was that I didn't have any means to research these drugs. I suffered from a lot of side-effects, and never realized that most of these medications were not intended to be permanent, or even long term. Eventually I developed a dependence on them. 

Psychiatric medications work by supplementing neuro-transmitters. It is usually a deficiency of certain neuro-transmitters that causes mental illness including depression. The problem is that the brain has a natural tendency to decrease or even stop production of said neuro-transmitters, since it is getting them now externally. I'm pretty sure my brain is now permanently dependent on my medications, ergo my disdain for their abundant overuse. Medications should be a part of the solution, not THE solution.

If you watch the video, you'll see that Watson does not necessarily condemn all people who suffer from, or claim to suffer from depression. Having watched many of his other videos, I think he was trying to point out yet another facet of the victim mentality. The problem I have with this is that the take-away from the video, intentionally or not, serves to fortify the wall of ignorance that supports the stigma of mental illness.


You may have noticed the title of this article is Depression; Suicide. Why the semicolon? Well, I came across a video a while back about something called The Semicolon Project. It was created to raise awareness about mental health and suicide. I feel that anything we can do to raise awareness about suicide is good. The idea behind a semicolon is that it is a punctuation character that a writer uses to continue a thought when they don't want to end a sentence. The symbolism is to continue life, not end it.


May 31, 2009:  Having failed at many jobs, multiple battles with severe depression, and having to move in with my parents in my mid thirties, I had lost hope. I just couldn't figure out why life had to be so hard for me. My brother was doing well, had a new wife and just became a father the prior year. It seemed everything I touched turned to garbage.

So one night I started drinking and popping pills. I lit some candles to try to relax, but soon passed out. I could barely make it to my bed. The next day my mom found me and knew something was wrong. I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Everyone was asking if I tried to hurt myself. Of course I said no. I was going to school for design at the time. I said no because telling the truth would have landing me in the psych ward. A week in the hospital and I would have ended up failing my classes. There were times, after this incident, that I had lost all hope, and considered suicide again. But things started to improve greatly for me a few years later, after I had learned some things that God wanted to teach me.

Then last year my friend Joe took his own life. That was hard for me for many reasons, mostly because I thought I could help him. Having the misfortune of being the point of contact between the coroner's office and his next of kin, I learned first-hand how just horrifying it was to get that call, how horrifying it was to have to call his brother. Thank God we had been friends on Facebook for a few years. To complicate things, he had no idea, obviously, and thought it was just a social call. I had to make some very difficult decisions.

I've made many posts to Facebook about Joe; about how much I miss him; about how I wish things could have been different. It has become a calling. I want people to know that it was my sole intention to raise awareness. I was never virtue signaling or trying to draw attention to myself. I miss my friend, but if I can help even just one person to choose life, If I could help at least one person out of the black hole, it would be the most important thing I will ever do.