DEAR ABBY: This is in response to the letter from the Minnesota woman whose godson committed suicide at 18. At the funeral the minister asked for a show of hands from people who would not mind a phone call in the middle of the night from a depressed friend who needed to talk. Every hand went up.
I would like to say this: Many people SAY they are open to such a phone call. As someone who deals with chronic depression and has a history of attempted suicide, please let me share some of my experiences with "reaching out": My usually kind mother criticized me to the point of tears. Good friends have gone into their own problems before I could speak, or have been too busy to talk or call me back.
If you DO "raise your hand" as someone willing to take a call, be ready with love, support and understanding. If you feel you cannot do this, please be honest and kind enough to say so. -- HEALING IN RENO
DEAR HEALING: As loving and caring as friends and family might be, everyone must realize that chronic depression is an illness. While they may be willing to lend an ear -- and many are not -- the wisest course of action is to get the person to a doctor ASAP for professional evaluation and treatment. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: After a suicide, people react. The depressed person "should have" sought help. He or she "should have" called. Well, it's not that simple. More often, other people are distant. They don't really want to hear about the hopelessness and distress. Only in retrospect are they available, when it's too late -- and maybe that's the lesson: We are so busy living our own lives that we don't see it coming.
Depression is an isolating condition. Even when one finds help it can be a long, discouraging process. Prozac doesn't work for everyone. Perhaps if people were more aware of how a clinically depressed person sees the world, perhaps if people knew the right questions to ask, perhaps if people understood the depth of the despair and hopelessness, things would be different.
Please don't use my name. I'm constantly alert so that I keep my depressive tendencies under control -- and oh, what a difference in the quality of life! It's like putting on one's glasses and seeing individual leaves on the trees. I wish I'd been diagnosed earlier. -- DOYLESTOWN, PA.
DEAR DOYLESTOWN: Thank you for educating others about depression. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I wish easing the pain of depression was as easy as asking others for help. When your brain is in a blender at full speed, it's difficult for the proper connections to be made. Picking up a phone can be as overwhelming as picking up a 1,000-pound barbell.
What will help people with depression is more funding, research, scientific breakthroughs in medication and education. Our society has a lack of information about depression. Depression is an illness, not a "lack of character."
My heartfelt sympathy goes out to the godmother who lost her godson at such an early age. It's a tragedy. -- A MOTHER IN OREGON
DEAR MOTHER: I agree. The answer lies in research and education. Sick people should not be stigmatized. Anyone suffering from depression that lasts longer than two weeks should discuss it with a doctor and ask for a referral to a mental health specialist. If that's not possible, a suicide or crisis hotline should be contacted.