Talking about depression

Published 12:38 am Saturday, September 1, 2018

Autumn brings lots of things I love — cooler temperatures, falling leaves, harvest imagery, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Lest you start thinking I’m too basic, though, I don’t drink coffee period, and I can’t stand pumpkin spice anything.

However, September and October are also Suicide Prevention Month and Depression Awareness Month, respectively. They’re not quite as fun to think about as other parts of fall, but they are extremely important.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Horrifyingly, it is the second-leading cause for three very young age groups — 10-14, 15-24 and 25-34. It falls to fourth from the mid-30s to mid-50s.

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Like most of the leading causes of death, suicide is preventable, but clearly we’re not doing a good job preventing it.

For the next few weeks, the Suffolk News-Herald will run a series of columns on Wednesdays by columnist Nathan Rice, a local finance worker and students’ pastor at a small local church.

Rice, who has written for the paper for several years now, both on finance issues and on his work with the students, will open up about his battle with depression in the hopes that it helps others know that they’re not alone.

This series is quite a departure from his normal column topics, but he and I both felt this was an important topic to address in the paper.

While I have never struggled much with depression, I have been dealing with anxiety off and on for about seven years. It has been a horrible experience. Why does my heart keep racing? Why can’t I breathe like a normal person? Why does it feel like something is stuck in the back of my throat? Why do I feel like I am spiraling downward into a bottomless pit? Is something really wrong with me? Why can’t I go back to feeling normal? What brought this on? What do I have to be stressed about, anyway? And why do I go months or years without feeling like this and then it comes back one morning out of nowhere?

But there’s a silver lining to every cloud, and I think my struggle has made me more sympathetic and empathetic to others who are living with their own unseen illnesses. I was able to relate to many of the experiences Nathan shares in this upcoming series, and I hope that it will help others who are struggling feel a connection and recognize that they’re not alone.

We didn’t specifically plan this series to coincide with Suicide Prevention Month and Depression Awareness Month, but I’m pleased that it happened. These topics deserve to be addressed more, because the more they’re talked about in the public sphere, perhaps, the more we can remove the stigma and make it more socially acceptable for people who are struggling to ask for help.

If you’re in crisis, you can call 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433). If you’re struggling with constant depression but not currently contemplating suicide, please make an appointment with your physician.