Depression Isn’t Sadness and Suicide Isn’t a Cry For Help… by Steve Safran

Kate Spade. Anthony Bourdain. Two gut-punching suicides that have people asking “Why them? They had it all!” Sure, Bourdain lived a hard life, but Kate Spade, the queen of whimsy? She was wealthy, adored and…


We need better words. One of the biggest disservices to the field of mental health is to call the diagnosis of “depression” by the name “depression.” Everyone “gets depressed.” It’s a commonplace word: “I’m so depressed the meeting I planned fell through.” “The ending of that show was too depressing.” “He’s too depressing to be around.”

None of these examples has anything to do with the psychological definition of Depression.

People who live with depression are wired differently. Our brains perceive life differently than those who do not have depression. Let me put it another way.

Suppose you were born left-handed in this predominantly right-handed world. Suppose that was considered OK from time to time, but generally not an excuse to use your dominant hand. Righties would say “Why are you using your left hand? Your right hand works perfectly well.” Or, “I had a cousin who was left handed, but with a lot of work, he forced himself to use his right hand.” Or, “Why not just use your right hand? You wouldn’t need the special scissors.”

But I’m still a lefty, you’d say. I’d like to be a righty, but everything comes out all wobbly and it’s so uncomfortable. Can’t you just understand I’m part of the 10 percent of the population that is left handed?

Depression is exhausting. And it’s cruel. It tells you terrible things about yourself. That’s why Ms. Spade and Mr. Bourdain died. I can’t speak for their experiences, but I can speak for my own and what I know to be true from many other patients with depression: our minds become ruthless bullies. They tell us the meanest things about ourselves. They stockpile ammunition and open fire. And we have to sit there and take it because, well, it’s coming from our own brains.

45,000 people committed suicide in 2016. Suicide rates are up 30 percent just since 1999, according to NBC news. Only about half of those victims were known to have a mental health diagnosis. We do not talk about this issue enough, and when we do, we don’t really know what we’re talking about, or when we do, Depression is conflated with “feeling depressed.”

News organizations have taken to posting suicide hotline numbers when they run stories about suicide. That’s a responsible act of journalism, but it’s like running the number for 911 in an article about a car accident. People with depression know there is help, but their brain is telling them it’s time to die. The evil mix of ill-behaving neurotransmitters and whatever they have been through in life lands on a singular message: You must kill yourself.

Even in that moment, they know they have friends they can call. They know there are hotlines. But they are not interested in anything other than stopping that message, stopping the pain.

I suggest much more empathy in this area. As someone who has lived with anxiety and depression since the days of mixtapes, I’ve heard lots of well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) people say it all: “You’ve got a great life. What do you have to be depressed about?” (I don’t know. What do you have to be left-handed about?) “There are lots of people who have it worse off than you.” (Yes. And I still have depression.) “Just smile. How hard is it just to be happy?” (As hard as it would be for you to become left-handed while people insisted you use the regular scissors.)

My personal experience with this rotten condition has been horrid. I am certain I would have been more successful in my career without depression. For years, especially when I was younger, I wasn’t treated properly. As I got older, I was blamed for the illness that gripped me, as though it was a choice I made. I was called “lazy,” and put on meds that had me gain a ton of weight. People I loved mocked my illness, likely out of discomfort they may have it themselves. (They’re not much in the picture anymore.) In any case, there was not a lot of empathy.

We can’t stop suicide and depression. But we can understand it a lot better. I raise money for Movember, which supports research for men’s cancer and also the depression that can accompany it. This is something tangible I feel I can do. But all of us can do this: we can stop telling people with depression to “cheer up.” We can be more sensitive to this very real, very misunderstood disease.

Those of us with depression do not want to be treated as a protected class. We don’t want special rights or to be treated gently. You can’t make me depressed any more than you can make me a lefty. Empathy and acceptance are an enormous gift to those struggling to ignore the mean messages from their own minds.

Think about Robin Williams. Think about Kate Spade. Think about Anthony Bourdain. Think about the joy they brought you in their unique ways. Think about what you would have said to them, knowing they were going to take their lives. “Don’t do that” would not have worked. Instead of shameful, head-shaking whispers, let’s acknowledge suicide as the growing epidemic it is, and insist health care do more to support mental health.

Depression is not about what we have; it’s about what has us.

684 responses


      Is infanticide
      If parents
      still exist
      Or depending
      —on one’s—
      Marital status
      Or sex
      The offing could be
      By a maritricide
      And if the corpse
      Ain’t an only . . .
      Toss in
      a sororicide
      Trumped by a
      But never a
      Unless the carcass
      Was a Leftist
      . . . Yet . . .
      the horror
      No, terror
      Of this taking
      Whatever the being
      Or position
      in life
      Is easy
      As pie
      The choice
      I mean
      The day comes
      You choose
      . . . the noose . . .
      Or to go out
      for a slice
      Of pizza.

      From HELLFIRES SHAKE THE BLUES (Crimson Cloak Publishing)

  1. IMHO, there are 3 types of depression;
    1.A biological hard-wiring that creates a pall over life and creates a constant struggle to even stay neutral and NOT down.
    2.A depression from a physical ailment that is so painful, you can’t take it anymore and you wish it would end.
    3.And the drastic reaction to a temporary feeling like,I can’t go on:
    That things can NEVER improve… like “Romeo and Juliet”.
    We must peddle HOPE …it is the most Human of all emotions.
    These depressions are distinctly different and require different types of i interventions.
    Give people Hope, be there for them, but never feel guilty if you can’t stop them. It is an all
    Encompassing lack of hope that grips an individual. If you think it’s going on remind people of those who love them despite it all and encourage them to have HOPE.
    They cannot pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, but by some miracle they may grab on to Hope and Love.

    • Hi Ann,
      Thank you for listing the different types of depression. I would absolutely agree that people need love ~ especially self-love ~ even though that can take really hard, focused work to find.

      However, I wonder if instead of ‘hope’, we need to have trust (faith – not in the religious sense).

      Hope, to me, has the connotation that things might not work out; whereas if I work on having trust, I will find it in time and have faith knowing if not today, another day. Gx

      • GX I love your take on faith in replace of hope. It’s gotmy mind working in so many positive ways immediately. Your words made a difference today. Thank you. TL

    • Beautifully said. Being understood is SO important. People can tell me they understand my chronic physical pain that’s been going on for 20 years. But they can’t. Not unless they’ve experienced that pain…for more than a few days, weeks or months. Along with it comes depression, anxiety and other ‘afflictions.’

      • You are right. I want to understand and help, but I don’t know how. I can listen. What do I say or do to help depressed individual?

        • I know when I am having racing thoughts and cannot move I need to start with water, lots of water. Breath relax, and pray for help. Talking helps, even to myself. Get grounded in nature around me and start thinking about what is good in life. One good thing is all it takes to turn it around in the moment. Living in the moment and healing in the moment. I can tell you from experience that if a person in drunk or drugged up all bets are off, you just do the best you can to listen and make suggestions without expectations only acceptance.

          • There have been so many people sharing their coping mechanisms and strategies for battling the Depression Demons. Thank you for adding yours. Substance abuse only makes this disease more lethal, too. We’re listening.

      • Chronic pain is not a good friend! I suffer with Fibromyalgia, and depression and anxiety goes along with it. I have good days and bad days, as I’m sure you do. It gets old doesn’t it, but we must remember we’ve got to hang in there. Prayers for you, Lisa.

  2. You might want to interview some of the 16,000 parents who have lost children, like myself to suicide, for more answers.

    We live horrific lives now due to our children’s deaths.
    The group is called…Tge Compassiobate Friends- Loss to Suicide. Based out of Illinois.

    Also, research is starting to come along finally a bit. There is a test now that can tell you which combination of medications can be used to chemically balance the brain to help save some lives. The test takes out the guess work of which meds work …for each individual has a different make-up of the brain.
    And there’s also the help from the naturopathic route too…. or a combination of both.

    There’s a group called The Brain research group, I believe, based out of New York.
    100% of the proceeds goes to brain research.

    But definitely, we need more time spent on research and fine tuning what they have discovered already,…that will help.

    Chris’ Mom
    Rest In Peace my son
    4.5 years survivor of a son who left too soon at at age 21

    • Dear Sandy, thank you for adding these resources and your perspective. I can only imagine that fellow parent survivors are the few who “get it,” who you can speak freely with, who won’t shy away from the terrible topic. I am glad you have them.

    • Sandy,

      Thank you for your comments. I lost my son to suicide on January 7th this year. The devastation I feel is indescribable. I am hope to connect with a support group at some point.

      I too suffer from chronic treatment resistant depression/anxiety, I have never heard anything about this medication research/combination thing. I feel like I have been a guinea pig since being in my mid-20s. I am so tired of trying and switching and the side effects only to have the medication “not be the right one”. So I will pursue researching this Brain Group you referenced.

      I am so sorry for your loss, I send you peace, love and light to ease your suffering.

      Nathan’s Mom
      Sunrise 9-1-80 ~ Sunset 1-7-18
      “Love one for how they lived, not how they died”

      • I believe there are different companies that do the test I would ask your doctor about a pharmacogenetic test for anti-depressants. They’ll take a blood sample. I did it last fall – insurance did not cover it and it cost a couple hundred dollars but I feel like it was worth it.

      • There is a Dna test mine was called gen O mind the web site is it weeded out so many medications that your body would not be compatible with from the very beginning SSRIS, SNRIs, Atypipicals, TCAs, MAOIs, mood stabilizers and anticonvulsants, atypical antipsychotics,typical antipsychotic, anxiolytics, dopaminergic stimulants agents , Nris. a2 agonists, Pain non opioid, opioid, miscellaneous . After having this done on myself I had it done for my children to avoid them going through the roller coaster .

    • Please share more about this test as trial and error suck. I’m at my wits end with this disease and the stigma behind it.

    • I am so sorry about your son. Those words seem so in adequate and insufficient. I can’t imagine your deep Grief and pain and emptiness and all Of the other horrible emotions.
      I am Sorry. Joe

  3. What this article leave me with is that… there’s nothing we can do then… we just need to understand that when someone decides to commit suicide then that’s what they wanted to do… we need to accept it… there’s nothing we could have done. It’s their final and very personal decision.

    • After I read Steve’s essay, I felt like there was something I could do. I can be less afraid to ask the hard questions and more empathetic to people suffering from this chronic illness. His statement that other people cannot make him Depressed any more than they could make him left-handed was also a relief to me.

      • To be of help one must know the signs of the various forms of clinical depression. There is PMD Persistent Mild Depression, previously called dysthymia. There is PPD Post-Partum Depression, MDD Major Depressive Disorder, and more. And those are called unipolar depression. Bipolar requires one episode of mania or hypomania plus depression to be diagnosed. Trauma, chronic pain, serious illness like cancer and heart attacks or heart surgery can all have clinical depression as a secondary issue. Feeling trapped in a dysfunctional or abusive situation can lead to depression. Notice things like the negativity, also known as “stinkin’ thinkin’.”

        A good approach is, “I’m concerned about you. I have noticed these signs of depression in you. I think we ought to get it checked out. I’ll go with you.”

    • Yes..exactly. It is not always about us..were we not good enough..why did I do this or not that..endless questions that gaunt survivors. It is a personal decision. I agree and for reasons we do not all know. I lost love to suicide. I do not blame self. I know this was not about me

  4. Powerful statement in this article. “Depression is not about what we have; it’s about what has us.” …….The grips of depression is just that – a strong hold. We don’t choose it. Just like the left hand example in this article. A good analogy to help those that thankfully have not been under the “grip” understand a bit better. Good article!

  5. Depression is a very unique ailment. It can be worn on the outside and seen by all or it can hide in the deepest depths that nobody even knows about. People with depression may want to do whatever it takes for others not to endure that pain or it may simply be therapy at some level for those to cope and have their mind active and doing something productive or meaningful ALL the time. Silence or idleness can be a trigger if even for a few moments out of the day. Our mind can be the most beautiful thing and the most brutal torture chamber…almost simultaneously. For some the erosion happens quickly and for others it takes years. What is the best thing you can do? Be a friend, show support, understand? Those are all fine but until the brain is rewired with the way it processes thoughts for those battling all methods are simply band aid solutions. If one can keep the charade going for life and be distracted enough there is good chance for survival BUT when the silence comes or the isolation creeps in and the walls close in faster than you can imagine…that is when the test comes. Some survive all those tests and some….well…they just don’t. To understand that pain is unlike any other for it is a constantly moving and hiding enemy that often lurks in the darkness and most will not even show you the rock it is under. It is familiar and the realization of its harm is something hard to let go of. Just a few thoughts from a busy mind.

    • Yes. This exactly. My distractions are bandaids. I do as much as I can to stay busy enough to quiet that voice in that tells me I’m not enough. Every time I start drowning I wonder if it’s the last time, if I’ll lose the war. I hate living like this.

      • You ARE enough. You are strong enough. You are smart enough. You are pretty enough. Your friendship is enough. Your love is enough.
        You. Are. Enough.
        I have to tell myself this every day when my feet hit the floor. It’s a daily struggle, but you are not alone.

    • …. its ironic to have everything and still nothing…to laugh for them and cry within…to long for the end and regret the beginning

  6. My daughter Lael (24) killed herself last July. She was successful after multiple attempts. She too seemingly had it all. That only made it worse for her. She would say, “I know I’m loved. I have great friends and family. If it weren’t for your love, I would have escaped years ago.” That was in he suicide note. She would talk about having a murderer who lived in her brain. “I’m sick Mommy.” And yet she had high executive function, appeared to the world as brilliant, beautiful, talented, sassy….
    ….she was texting a friend for an hour while she was on the bridge she jumped off of. She knew exactly what she was doing. She had made a decision. She could have told her friend but she didn’t want to reach out. Or she couldn’t. So, I also agree about the hotlines – once someone is in that space, they are useless. And still, I see the necessity for them.
    So sorry you suffer. A day at a time. We do need to change the way we speak about suicide and depression. Thanks for the article.

    • Thank you for providing additional insight into the disease from a very personal place. I am so sorry to read about Lael (and so many others in this thread) who ultimately could not escape the murderer lurking in her brain.

  7. I’ll admit to not knowing that much about depression/suicide although that I suspect a family member does suffer from it, so I’ve been reading everything I can. The one thing that strikes me over and over are the rising suicide rates. Is there research being done on this? If depression can be chemical/genetic and it has been around for ages why now are the rates so high?

    • I think depression is internal, from heredity of bad brain chemistry. From my personal experience, high stress can make it worse. My only hospitalization (hopefully it will remain the only one) for depression and anxiety was brought on by severe work stress. My theory on why suicide rates are increasing is that life in this modern era is becoming more and more stressful. mass shootings, road rage, incivilitynin politics. Add to that our addiction to electronics and how it is replacing true human to human interaction. And how about addiction to gaming/or social media that causes people to,stay indoors and sedentary way too many hours? We know that exposure to sunlight, physical activity, and good social networks helps people cope. But our modern lifestyle encourages the exact opposite.

      • You’ve hit just about everything straight on and absolutely right! My extended family all have chemical imbalances…, the ones who aren’t being proactive are all alcoholics and drug addicts. I’m an alcoholic but clean and sober for 30+ years. I’m still struggling to find the right meds.., I was misdiagnosed for a long time. I’m Bipolar 2 and it was scary as hell. Stil is although there is some comfort in just knowing what it is, finally. We’re born this way–I’m trying to get my middle son to seek treatment. He’s been depressed for a long time and I’m terrified that he’ll commit suicide.
        Your assessment about the lack of connections is so true for the younger generation. I feel so bad for them–but there’s no serious research or commitment right now. I hope there is soon.
        The only circumstance that you missed (and there’s no real way for normal people to understand it anyway) is overwhelming pain. I had a botched spinal surgery almost 20 years ago. I haven’t had a single moment of pain relief in all that time. Morphine, Fentanyl, nothing works for me. If I wouldn’t be leaving 3 sons who would internalize it and blame themselves for not ‘saving me’ I would’ve left a long time ago. I have no fear of dying–it will be a relief to leave a body riddled with pain. I think that’s understandable. I always recognize that reason for suicide.

        • I feel the same way. I can’t wait to leave this mind, body, life but feel it’s unimagenable to leave that legacy for my children to internalize.

          • Dear Wendy, it is unimaginable… until it isn’t. And everyone wants you here. I hope you are looking for (or have found) a therapist to help. If nothing else, I have learned that this disease cannot be treated in isolation any more than cancer or diabetes. This thread of 500 comments and the half million people who have read this essay understand you.

      • Well said, with family history of Bipolar and suicide watching my own teen soon to be an adult struggle with this over last couple years has confirmed my opinion of the amount of stress not only happening chemically but the lack of human to human engagement, patience, understanding, encouragement and trust things may get better (positive insite) is a huge factor. I find this also not being as seriously addressed as heart disease, diabetes or other somewhat killers which definitely has ultimately led to in the latter years.

  8. This article left me hanging as to a solution. It felt as if it was the excuse to be depressed or suicidal…. a sort of a twisted permission. It does however make me want to delve more into the two things he addressed more thoroughly. Maybe that was his point….

    • A person with mental health issues does not need an excuse or ‘permission’ to be ill, they just are! Your comment makes it sound like choice is involved, trust me, choice has nothing to do with it – anybody in this situation would ‘choose’ to be healthy if they could!

  9. Having suffered from depression, anxiety and self medicating for years to feel “happy”, I so relate to living with this condition. Much like alcoholism & drug abuse, we try to fix our feelings, without seeking help, so we are not perceived as being different. But I lost that battle, I did seek help, got clean & sober, and take meds today, to stay on track. Doesn’t mean the voices are gone, or my brain is quie. Sleepless nights, dealing with all all of it, but knowing I will wake up & be okay.

    • I’m hoping you stay OK. Glad you found help. From the comments here, it seems like that step is not easy. Hopefully, when we have better ways of understanding and talking about depression, that will get easier.

  10. My wife suffers from depression I’ve had always been by here side good days or not so good ones it has taken me years to understand her illness I used to say to here cheer up or snap out off it now I give her space don’t feel sorry for her I be there when she needs me I give her my love and be unterstaning

  11. While I agree with most of this, I cannot agree with the idea that one gets the “I must kill myself” message in their head.

    After living with diagnosed depression for 10 years, and undiagnosed for another 10, it’s not so much a “kill yourself” message as it is a sense of overwhelming and uncaring. Everything, even thinking, becomes a HUGE thing, and can take dahs to do something simple, like getting out of bed. That’s when those messages of “I’m so pathetic I can’t even get out of bed” start in, and the “i don’t even have enough energy to live” messages. It’s not that you want it to end, it’s that you don’t have any energy left to keep going. It’s not a “solution to a temporary problem” (btw I hate that phrase), it’s a point of no return where even the idea of convincing yourself otherwise is too exhausting.

    • ”“i don’t even have enough energy to live” messages. It’s a point of no return where even the idea of convincing yourself otherwise is too exhausting.”
      THAT is bang-on point.

    • I think it’s possible to have both depression and schizophrenia (schizoaffective disorder) where there could be “voices” telling one to take his/her life. An occasional voice would be disconcerting…a relentless voice easily could be convincing. This isn’t the same as the feeling of being too overwhelmed to continue living.

    • Different people have different experiences. At my lowest point, I had recurring thoughts of methods by which to kill myself. Being a nurse, it was scary, because I KNEW how to do it lethally and I had access to the drugs that would have worked. I could not shut that “voice” up. It was not a true hallucination, but if it had been, I would have been even more terrified. LUckily for me, I had a great psychiatrist at the time, who insisted I be admitted to an inpatient unit. I gladly went because I felt safer there than I did at home or work.

      • I don’t claim to know what everyone with suicidal ideation goes through. I can only speak from the experiences I have, along with those I’ve heard from groups of people in similar situations and psychiatrists. The lack of a will to live absolutely plays a major role for many people considering suicide. And that’s really the same message – when you reach that point, a phone number’s not going to save you. Friends need to know what your unique signs are, and how to intervene. I’m glad you’re all still here.

  12. I cringe when I see a commercial about parkinsons, about dementia…..At times I also just break down for a moment. I have given these diseases alot of space in my mind lately.. I am 64 and am experiencing some memory loss and confusion, feeling momentarily ‘lost’. It is scaring the hell out of me frankly. And I am definitely contemplating suicide if any of these diseases appear in my medical file. I watched my dad die with Alzheimers, so heartbreaking, especially the lost look in their eyes. He didn’t even know me. If this is what Robin Williams was going through, I completely get it. On the other side of the coin, suicide took my first born son from me in 2002. He just turned 29. My baby….It has taken many, many years and hospital visits (for me) to get back my will to live… Yes I have other children and love them enough to die for any one of them in this instant. But that didn’t help me either. Just made me feel worse knowing how I made them feel when I was in this black, hopeless place. My heart, my mind, my soul were crushed, never to be the same….Of course, I was in weekly counseling and on meds but I went like a robot and quit counseling after a couple years but stayed on the meds. Nobody understood that I wanted to die to be with my baby. They just kept preaching at me. A comment was made that “I guess she cares more for the dead than the living.” I am in tears now but just wanted these doubters to hear and maybe learn something That even though I was trying what I knew to do, the anguish still raged on inside me I hated myself for the longest time, to let my other children down so badly. But that “Black Place” was too deep and I couldn’t climb out no matter what. I just hope people will start looking for the ‘good’ and they will find it. I take care of my autistic grandson now and also help others. I am so grateful to be alive and have this second chance. And by the way, I attended Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings and also SOS, Survivors of Suicide meetings and I believe they helped a little..Well, I have saved the worst for last…..I, the mother to these incredibly decent and loving kids, Am guilty too. I attempted suicide in the 1990’s. I know!! What happen ed to me??? All I know is that it all made sense that night. Like what has been said here, I truly believed my children would have a better life without me. I can’t explain how I felt that night. Robotic for my thoughts and actions. It MOST DEFINITELY was not me in any sense of a right mind. I am still grateful every day that I survived. But I also have to live with the knowledge that he may have followed in my footsteps The “if onlys” are never ending….Thank you for letting me share. God bless all

    • This is a safe place for sharing, we hope. Thank you for adding to the discussion. Getting help (and helping others, too) has been successful for you and these are the stories we need to share. xxoo

    • I understand. “If Only” is a terrible trickster. I HATE aphorisms, especially about mental illness. But.. there is one that sticks with me. Maybe it will help you, maybe you’ll think it’s a load of hooey. “If the past calls, send it to voicemail – it has nothing new to tell you.”

  13. I appreciate this article so much. I have been told to cheer up, asked what “exactly” i have to be sad about, told by a counselor to go on a date with my husband, reminded that my life is pretty darn good and on and on, all of which just adds to the guilt i carry for somehow not being grateful enough for the life and family I have. I have tried to describe the feeling as being in the bottom of a a well, where it is pitch black and round… it has to be round because if it were square you could get a compass point… some sense of focus. In a round dark room there is no way to get your bearings. You keep searching but everything feels the same. I wish people could understand the effort it takes to get through the days, the absolute exhaustion. The guilt. The feeling broken. When I hear of someone committing suicide, I feel for them…the agony and exhaustion they must have felt to reach that point. I am grateful that I have been able to keep my head above water thus far…but i will never belittle those who have fought the good fight and lost.

    • I can totally relate. For me, it was 100% brain chemistry. It took a lot of trial and error (and getting worse before I got better), but the right combo of medicine has transformed me. No one can tell you to be grateful for your life- you have to feel it and believe it. Not sure if you’ve pursued medication, but from my perspective, the long road to finding what worked was so worth it. I went from pessimistic and depressed to hopeful and optimistic. Bad things can happen and I think “okay, well it just paves the way for something better to come into my life.” And then I think “who am I and what happened to the old me?” I so totally prefer the new me- she is so much easier to live with. I still have the love, caring, and empathy for others that I’ve always had- I just don’t beat myself up anymore. Stephanie- please know that there are people who are rooting for you. If I can come out of it, you can come out of it- just ask for what you need and be prepared to do your work.- not for your husband or parents or siblings, coworkers, or kids- do it for you.

    • For starters, let your friends/family know you’re there for them. Always. Not just in crisis. Don’t make them feel bad for feeling bad. Don’t think about it as changing their mind so much as feeling empathy for how they got where they are. Sometimes, when you’re in a hole, all it takes is a companion sitting quietly with you to help calm the noise.

  14. I have experienced times when only negative feedback and memories will play back in my head. In my case, I can usually trace it to lack of water, unbalanced nutrition, eating things that feed systemic yeast, not enough vegetables or probiotics. Systemic yeast or lack of beneficial bacteria in the intestines can cause depression. Sugar and other additives can cause depression too. I have lived through their effects and I have lived through feeling fine in bad situations when I take care of my internal biome and get exercise and exposure to nature and relaxing things. It takes managemwnt daily. The difference is dramatic.

  15. I have experienced times when only negative feedback and memories will play back in my head. In my case, I can usually trace it to lack of water, unbalanced nutrition, eating things that feed systemic yeast, not enough vegetables or probiotics. Systemic yeast or lack of beneficial bacteria in the intestines can cause depression. Sugar and other additives can cause depression too. I have lived through their effects and I have lived through feeling fine in bad situations when I take care of my internal biome and get exercise and exposure to nature and relaxing things. It takes managemwnt daily. The difference is dramatic.

  16. It is so incredibly sad. I wish with all my heart there was a fix for this illness. Someone change the name and help people realize it’s way more serious than depression. Why can’t the health officials make it more known as to what is happening to theses beautiful people that take their lives and leave their loved ones behind. Someone needs to do something. 😢

  17. I’ve been trying to explain this for over a week and you said it perfectly. I never felt that something was lacking in my life. I have a good life. Before I found the right combo of medication, I didn’t feel I was worthy of what I had and maybe that was the case with Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. With depression, your brain tricks you into all kinds of irrational thoughts. My brain convinced me that I was a terrible person who didn’t deserve my friends and family. It is so destructive. Luckily I had moments of clarity that allowed me to reach out for help.

  18. Thank you for this, I have a daughter dealing with depression and this really sheds a different light but backs up some of the things she has told us. The analogies make so much sense. She tried to commit suicide once and we live in fear it will happen again so I am trying to learn as much as I can about what she deals with on an ongoing basis. She has taken that test to tell us what drugs will work better than others and there are stretches when it seems to be great and then we hit deep divots in the road. Again, thanks for sharing this and very well said.

    • Thank you for sharing your story. Everyone’s experience is different. I’m glad I helped you understand your daughter a little better. Stay on top of her meds and whatever other care the professionals recommend, stay away from the “quick fix” artists, and be there for her. She’s in good hands.

  19. Working in the suicide prevention field, I can say that just being there and saying “it’s OK you feel the way you are feeling, I am here” does so much more then people’s well meaning of “cheer up”, I seriously hate those words sometimes… We don’t need to always “be happy”, it’s normal to have down moods, but telling someone to “smile” is only going to make many hide their depression and feel worse about themselves…. There definitely needs to be a change and shift in the way society handles and discusses depression and suicide….. #ThatsMy2Cents

    • Very well put. “I am here” is what many people want to hear. They feel alone and feel that nobody cares. You’re there. You care. You make a difference. Thanks for sharing your insight and for doing what you do.

      • Yes letting your exhausted and suicidal love one know u are there is crucial.but don’t do what I DID and push your Child to work and be productive..As a black man from the south who has been battling Narcolepsy for most his life.For me, the idea of being called lazy or crazy was worst than death…I would never admit to be exhausted and I didn’t show enough empathy towards my son’s lethargy and exhaustion .AFTER my son took his life it became very clear to me,my desire to be perceived normal had made me into a monster…A monster my son chose not to be..My son saw himself as a problem and the gun was the only solution.I fault myself for not being strong enough to show him its okay to be down and need support.

    • Real talk, whenever someone tells you to “cheer up” or “be happy” or “smile” or anything like that, they actually don’t want you to do any of those things. Its usually them indirectly telling you that you are ruining their day and that you are an inconvenience to them. They just don’t have the guts to say it.

      I learned long ago that there’s only one person I can rely on: Myself. When I realized that, everything else became noise pollution, and I began using my pain as leverage to start pulling myself up.

  20. Thank you for writing this. But please…stop using the wording “committed suicide” which is very stigmatizing for the loved ones lost behind. “Died by suicide” works just as well without implying stigma.

  21. I am absolutely stunned that the use and abuse of SUBSTANCES i.e. Drugs and or Alcohol are completely missing from the actual blog itself. As well – after skimming through most of the comments – there are only several references to the use of Drugs and Alcohol.

    Addiction is one of the most insidious and common reagsons for suicide. This is well documented in case studies and scientific journals. How is it possible that most of you have completely passed over this very important indicator and not shared that you’ve had problems of your own or know someone who has or did?

    I am a recovering alcoholic and drug user (proud of it almost 5 years now) and there were times that I saw no way out. Although I have never had “depression” or “clinical depression” or whatever else you choose to call it I had those types of thoughts when I was in my addiction.

    The drugs available today have turned the %’s of users dramatically upward with the narcotics epidemic and the availability of prescription pills, crystal meth and crack cocaine not only desimating the inner cities but now the suburbs as well. I am aware of the fact that there are many who don’t use or if they do it may or may not be a contributing factor for depression and suicide however it is hard to fathom the absolute lack of discussion and how it relates. I welcome your replies.

    • Congratulations on your 5 yrs! But what they haven’t said is that a lot of the people doing these drugs and alcohol are self medicating,,,,,they have depression and don’t understand it ,,,are embarrassed to admit it,,,,or simply just don’t realize that this bandaid of drugs and alcohol are just that,,,a bandaid,,,,when they’re not high anymore ,,,they are once again depressed and the cycle begins again. Also those who drink and take drugs are damaging their brains and nervous systems and may be causing or exacerbating depression,,,,,,our world is seeing more suicide ,,that’s a fact that us sufferers know all to well,,, ,good mental health to all..

    • Thanks for your input, Stevie. I disagree that addiction has been largely missing from the discussion. I have read (and responded) to over a hundred comments and “I am now clean and sober” has been a common theme for survivors. Self-medication has also come up quite a bit. You ought to be proud of 5 years of sobriety and I am grateful for your willingness to share your perspective. That suicidal ideation for you was an element inside your addiction may be exactly what another reader is experiencing. I feel strongly that these generous comments can only help. Steve’s essay challenged us to see Depression a little differently, to be kinder in our words around it. Yours adds to this list. Thank you.

    • You’re right on all counts. I’m sorry for stunning you with my choices. I write what I know, just as you so generously wrote about what you know. It would be dishonest of me to try and share what happens in the mind of an alcoholic. I was in no way trying to write a comprehensive accounting of the causes and cures for depression, nor am I remotely qualified to do so. I’m glad you took the time to add what you know to the conversation and, if you look a little closer, I think you’ll find many discussions on deaths of loved ones by drugs and alcohol – they’re sharing what *they* know. You have my gratitude.

  22. People who have never suffered from true depression will never understand that voice that tells you that you are not worth bothering other people about. Even if you know people love and care for you intellectually, the voice hounds with negativity about your lack of worth, flaws and unimportance.

    • Legit. I had to deal with that for over a decade. Then I just stopped caring about others opinions. Maybe its just because I’m naturally rebellious and curious but that’s how I recovered. Being curious about my own progression and not caring about how I am doing compared to others got me on a different level in my mental health.

    • Was on happy pills (Welbutrin I think it was called) for a few months in 2011. Worst decision I have ever made. Killed my sex drive, wasn’t even able to get erections, absolutely ruined my ability to focus, had to double dose just to get myself to be productive. Then I would get seizures. I remember I went to a pier to try to jump off of it and end myself, but I didn’t do it and threw the happy pills in the ocean instead.

      Maybe they work for some, but I say to hell with happy pills. Pills don’t get you out of the weeds. Lifestyle change and being curious about stuff like a kid again does it.

    • I hope one of the reasons was to let you know you matter. I hope you’re able to get the help you need. It’s possible. It also takes a LOT of work. Write me any time. We’re friends here.

  23. Your article was beautiful, thank you. My brother took his life in 2010. I do want to mention, however, that more and more we are seeing “deaths of despair”, which may not be connected to depression as a chronic illness but rather an extreme reaction and inability to adapt to the way life is these days. I think it’s an interesting conversation to have. It’s a provocative thing to say but not all suicides are about chronic depression, in other words. I wrote the following article about taking the opportunity to talk about not wanting to live and using it to really think about how we live today and how to cope without checking out, because the problem with suicide is that the collateral damage it creates is SO HUGE and those considering ending their lives do need to consider the consequences for others. We need to talk about suicide.

    View at

    There is also this article about suicide and depression which differs from your point of view but in a way that really ADDS to the conversation. Everything we can do right now to talk about as many aspects of this crisis as possible are helpful!

    Thank you again for the article.

  24. And…..depression isn’t a thing you wear, it’s a thing that is worn despite not wanting to wear it! I have had depression seriously twice, and for long periods of time. I’m not a depressed person. I’m a go person. Depression decided to pay me visits and stay awhile. Once was because of my brother’s suicide. Yet, I did NOT consider suicide myself. I’m a lucky one. I just die inside myself for awhile. Then, I realize just how bad that is for myself, and everyone around me, and I pull those boot straps up!

  25. Seems like a lot of people have clear problems distinguishing between “the blues” and legit depression. They also have clear problems distinguishing between being mad at yourself and legitimately looking for ways to end your own life. A good amount of the time, you’ll never be able to notice if a depressed person is actually depressed or not. For nearly my entire 20s I was depressed and suicidal. Had a bad habit of giving up on everything I started (except keeping a job; I guess I still had my survival instincts), and thought about what things would be like if I was dead constantly, we’re talking about several times a week. Does anyone really think that I let anyone know about it? Absolutely not! Aaaaaand why is that? Because I didn’t want to deal with their reactions. I didn’t want to pressure them any. So I just kept on wearing that mask, making sure no one knows how I actually feel.

    As someone who has had serious mental health problems from about 16 until 30, one thing I want to say to anyone who is seeking help from others about your own mental health problems is that you will not find it in others. They don’t understand you. It’s you vs. you, and there is no competition. Once I figured that out, I just started doing me. I refused to follows society’s orders and judge my self worth based on how much money I have, who I’m dating, or what kind of job I have or whatever. I started saying to myself: How can I outdo myself in this area? When you do that, you start getting curious, like a kid again. And then it all just goes away and you just start doing you.

    You vs. You. Its the only way to win for people like us.

  26. Thank you. You hit the nail on the head. Lost my only sibilng, my brother 3 years ago to suicide. He was a phenomenal brilliant man that appeared to have everything going right. He had plans that were special the next day and I get the worst call of my life. No note, no signs just left. It has taken me all these years to try and understand his journey. He suffered this God awful disease I was blessed not to have. I pray for all families on this journey. So many of his friends were left feeling bad they didn’t get the call before he decided to do this. I tell them he already had his mind made and would not have left you with the burden of trying to talk him out of his decision. Be blessed. Thank you for sharing.

  27. I am bipolar and certainly depression has been a big part of my life. Everything you said was totally true. Stigma cripples those of us suffering from mental illness. I think our society has no clue what we deal with on a daily bases. Thank you for your article.

  28. This is a very excellent description of depression. Thank you for bringing to the readers a better understanding of this vice so many of us live with behind the curtain. Mental disorders are looked at so much differently than other disorders. If you are a diabetic, you supplement your body with the very thing it is not doing its job. Mental disorders are exactly the same thing. We supplement our bodies with medication to assist its ability to function correctly.

  29. I wish it was as easy as it sounds to just talk about it. I would never step foot into any office to speak of my depression with anyone else. Depression is usually very private and you don’t have to be alone very long for it to take over your mind even while trying to keep busy. The constant voice that tells you “why are you even here? Can’t you see you don’t belong?” Never leaves you alone.

  30. Keep a connection with your higher power and seek recovery. Ask for help. Pray. Even if you don’t know what you are praying to. You will be heard. Keep the faith. I had a complete breakdown and came out of it with what I have learned in recovery over 40 years. I was going to fast and hard, depleted my energy on every level. Broken bones 3 years in a row ignored and in pain. I needed to be medicated and spend a lot of down time getting to know myself and putting my needs first for a while neutralizing negative thoughts with positive healing thoughts. Please know that you are not alone.We are all going through major change in energy and how we react to this evolution of humanity is individual and collective. And about suicide, when the calling is that strong it’s a God thing. The best and the brightest are sacrificed for a powerful lesson to us all. We must choose to live every day. In every moment even. If we can’t do it call for help. You are worth it. Blessings

  31. Apologies if someone else may have noted this already: When I’m told to “snap out of it!”, I delve deeper into darkness, feeling like a failure and a disappointment. A burden and a loser..
    Please don’t say that to anyone you know is truly suffering. If it were that easy, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion. Thank you…

    • I don’t think this can be said enough. In the cancer world, there are a thousand blogs about “what NOT to say to your friend with cancer.” I haven’t seen much in that regard for Depression. There are probably 100 people in this thread alone who agree with you.

  32. Being ‘depressed’ over a meeting falling through is NOT depression. I personally have not experienced ‘depression’… I have gone through circumstantial periods of sadness and loss and frustration. The few times these lasted longer than usual were challenging but I can’t say I was ‘depressed’. Most of us have little understanding!

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