With the death of Robin Williams this week there’s been a lot of discussion about mental health, depression, suicide, and the issues that come from those things that many of us still don’t understand. Several of those topics have effected my own life greatly and so I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting the past few days.
My brother committed suicide a couple of years ago. He overdosed on drugs and was found a week later. The last year of his life he was in the worst situation he had ever been in. His depression and his addiction to prescription pills, meth, and crack had overtaken his life. He was a shadow of the person he had been only a year before his death. The last time I saw him, honestly, I barely recognized him. He dealt with depression his entire life but it was something he only revealed to others late at night, when he was drunk or high, and at his most vulnerable. It’s interesting how the night can bring out truths you’d usually never see during the day.
He was handsome, successful, and as my big brother I knew he enjoyed being someone I could lean on to talk to. But he was very sad and from a young age he escaped into his addictions to seek shelter from those sad thoughts that often overpowered him, that forced him to stay bed ridden for days at a time. He wanted everyone to know him as the happy, positive guy he portrayed on the outside but towards the end even he couldn’t keep up the charade any longer.
After his death I spent so much time trying to understand what had happened. I would collapse into bed every night after work completely heartbroken thinking about what I could have done differently. He was so young at 37. He still had so much life to live, so many things to still accomplish. Didn’t he know he was loved? Didn’t he know I was there for him? Maybe if I had said or done certain things he would still be here.
But that’s just the thing that so many of us who have lost others to suicide have a hard time understanding – love is not the cure to depression. It is not the cure for illness or disease or addiction. You can love someone every single day and still, it does nothing for the invisible monsters they’re facing on their own. Those monsters, whether you want to believe they exist or not, are there. It is not a made up thing that can be calmed and alleviated by the sheer presence of love, as much as we wish it could be.
It’s easy to understand people want answers when someone commits suicide. I still sit and think about my brother from time to time as I have often this week and wonder about the events leading up to his death. To place blame on the person who takes their own life and to call them selfish or to make comments like, “they’re at peace now,” “they’re in a better place, ” or “if they only knew they were loved” only encourage the idea that suicide and/or the existence of love is the answer to depression.
Love is not what depression needs. It’s acknowledgment, understanding, and treatment that can only truly make a difference in the life of someone suffering from depression.