Sunday, November 17, 2013


Seth is in row 6, #13 from the left. Source

This week I had an eye opening conversation.

I was talking with a co-worker and Seth’s death came up.

She asked me how I am doing with it all and I could only come up with “It sucks. It hurts really bad. It really really sucks.”

She then said “Melinda, I just don’t get it. You are such an amazing person. Seth’s suicide makes no sense to me. Why would he leave such an amazing person??”

I was speechless.

I just wanted to scream at her “He was mentally ill!! What does that have to do with me being an amazing person?? He was sick! That’s like saying someone with cancer won’t die because they have an amazing wife at home!”

I felt like I failed. I felt like I needed to defend myself and my marriage. And I decided not to.. because what I had to say to her wasn't friendly or professional.

And clearly she doesn't have the first clue about mental illness.

Stigma slapped me in the face.. again.

People have this illusion that if you have an amazing life and marriage, that life is worth living. That all the amazing things in life override mental illness.

Frankly I am sick of the stigma that revolves around mental illness.

I’m sick of suicide being shameful.

I’m sick of mental illness not being talked about.

I’m sick of the stigma.

I’m sick of how mental illness is whispered about behind closed doors.

I kept my husband’s mental illness private. Very few people knew what was going on with him. I whispered about it to my closest friends and family. Why? Because Seth was ashamed of it and I respected his privacy.

And when he killed himself, it left people completely dumbfounded because Seth “never seemed depressed” and I had hid his secret for far too long.

But what did that do? It kept him isolated. It pushed him further into a hole because he had no one to talk to. Because he was too ashamed to talk about it.

One of my favorite quotes – “We’re only as sick as the secrets we keep” – Maria Nemeth

Mental illness needs to be talked about. Not whispered about behind closed doors.

Suicide is at an all time high, yet it’s whispered about. WHY?

Do I really need to point out the elephant in the room?

“Every 40 seconds somewhere around the world someone dies by suicide, that’s 99 people every 66 minutes. Every day, that’s almost 100 people in the United States alone, and over 2160 worldwide."

Why are we whispering about this??


  1. In my case it isn't suicide, but my brother is mentally ill. His shame and my parents' shame kept him from the treatment and medication that would have given him a chance for a real life - a happy life. Instead they all more comfortable with him a (self medicating) raging alcoholic. The are furious that I've always spoken the truth about what's wrong with him. I'm furious at the waste of a human life over something that now seems so silly -- worry about what people might think. So, it's not suicide, it's another kind of death.

    Why are we whispering about this?

  2. This is so heartbreaking and so well-written. and youre so right, so many people do not understand depression, mental illness, or suicide. They just dont get it at all. Thank you for writing this.

    1. I would be happy to work with you in any way to talk about mental illness and public awareness. Why do we have all this pink stuff and everyone waving a banner, but it's shameful to talk about mental illnes?. One of the things that bonded my husband and me was talking about our mentally ill relatives. In his case his schizophrenic mother and in mine my brother - though my mother also has a personality disorder that she denies. He was much more ashamed that I was. I always felt that as the "lucky" one in my family who wasn't affected that I needed to be the one standing up. How is this different than someone standing up for a sibling with Downs Syndrome or autism? Let's bring this all out of the closet.

      While I'm on my soapbox - do you think there was a chance of saving those boys who've done the mass shootings if someone talked honestly about their illnesses and the difficulties in getting the right treatment or any treatment at all?

  3. Even if we have suffered the death of a loved by suicide, we still cannot get it. It is impossible to understand, even to imagine even after the fact. Yet, it is only too too real. And one must forever learn to forgive oneself for not knowing how deeply deeply troubled your loved one was. For not recognizing the sheer magnitude of distress. And the guilt is always there. No matter how much therapy you have or how many people tell you that you are not to blame. We are all responsible for each other and having been unable to prevent death by suicide is the greater horror one can imagine living through. The pain is unrelenting and the sadness perpetual. One exists in a parallel world. The world one must inhabit and the world one remembers. It is a weight you bear each and every day. The weight gets lighter some days. The light gets through the darkness...but, when the thought of that moment, that split second when you know that the person youj loved, that you you built a life with took a decission to end his life has always the capacity to numb you, to hurt you, to make you want to die too. And yet, we keep going and we keep hoping that the burden will be lighter and the light will stay.

  4. Your post resonates with me and I'd like to add my two cents. I have not had a family member commit suicide, but I had a mentally ill brother, (now deceased from physical ailments) so I understand the difficulty of living with mental illness. His illness informed my career, and is the reason I chose to earn a psychology degree and become a counselor. The stigma is something that everyone in my profession educates family members and society in general about. When I have parents or other clients before me that resist diagnoses or medication, I always explain that illness in the brain is no different than illness in the heart or kidney or pancreas, and requires treatment. It really is difficult to get people to understand this simple fact, and after years of explaining all I can think is that people in general are very fearful of those who display behaviors that don't fit into the "norm." It makes life extremely difficult and isolating for the patients and families who are living through it. In terms of guilt after a suicide...I don't attempt to speak from personal experience, but having lost beloved family members, guilt appears after a death no matter how that death occurred, and even when there was nothing left to do. "Grief guilt" seems to plague all of us who have been left behind, no matter the cause of the death. It seems our brains have to sort out everything, which includes the irrational thoughts that we could have saved our loved ones. These thoughts are very real to us at the time, and I have experienced them. But after some time and healing takes place, it is true that we realize that many circumstances are beyond our control. In summary, when people start asking uncomfortable questions, set boundaries. Merely say, "thanks for asking, but I'd prefer not to go there....what's new with you?" God bless all of you and may you find peace.