Recently, a friend posted on Facebook that someone she knew had committed suicide. Among the comments of “I’m sorry” and “That’s awful” came this reply: “I had a friend who once said, ‘I don’t understand suicide. I’d rather go to Jamaica, weave a basket, and smoke weed all day if it were to get that bad.’ He makes an excellent point.” No, he doesn’t (unless his point is that he is an asshole). If my friend’s friend had, say, succumbed to cancer, no one would suggest that this person should have just taken a vacation and then they would be cured. That doesn’t work for someone who suffers from depression, either.
It seems like a lot non-depressed people think depressed people are simply sad and that they just need to do something pleasurable to feel happy again. But sadness and depression aren’t the same thing. Remember that scene in Moonstruck when Cher slaps Nicholas Cage and tells him to “snap out of it!”? I think a lot of non-depressed people feel this way about depressed people. Believe me, depressed people would love nothing more than to just “snap out of it,” but that’s not possible. While depression does affect your mind, it’s not something you can make go away just by thinking differently. I can no more cure my depression by telling it to go away than I can mend a broken bone by willing it to heal.
This comment also suggests that if you commit suicide, it’s your own damned fault. Non-depressed people sometimes assume that depressed people just aren’t trying hard enough to make themselves feel better. People who suffer from depression are working hard. It’s when you do all the shit you’re supposed to do and you still don’t feel better that suicide starts to look like the only option you have left. I really don’t believe suicide is anyone’s go-to solution for their depression. Most people who commit suicide have suffered for years, and during that time they’ve most likely seen several therapists or doctors, taken an assortment of medications, read all the self-help books they could find, prayed, meditated, exercised, changed their diets, gotten a light box, consumed various vitamins, and even been hospitalized or had electro-shock therapy. And many who struggle with depression do much of this hard work alone. Because there is such a stigma attached to mental health issues, some people are reluctant to seek help or lack the support of friends and family. Others can’t afford treatment (much less a trip to Jamaica).
Depression is a hard thing to understand, even for people who suffer from it. I’m sure a non-depressed person doesn’t get it at all. And that’s okay. You don’t have to understand to be understanding.