A few days before Christmas last year, I got a call from my brother in the middle of the night. I’m thankful every day that I woke up and answered. He told me that he didn’t trust himself and that he was going to pack some things and check himself into the hospital. I talked to him until he made it to the psychiatric ward, and then called my parents to make a plan. What followed were some very rough months for our family, trying to understand how he got to that point, and how to help him. My brother has dealt with depression for quite some time, but this was a new low — what I hope was rock bottom.
I think about my brother and that phone call every day. When suicide is in the news like it has been recently with Robin Williams’ death, people come out of the woodwork with their opinions. I understand suicide is a charged topic, and everything from religion, to family values, to personal experience helps to shape your feelings. While I don’t kid myself that I’m offering anything new to the conversation, I just want to stand up and be counted on the side of compassion. I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand my brother’s depression, but I know that he is a good person and deserves love and happiness. He is intelligent, loyal, hilarious, creative, spontaneous, full of life, and has so much to offer this world. From the outside, you would never guess he struggles with depression. He deserves to live in a world where mental illness is understood for what it is — an illness — not a personal weakness or shortcoming.
Finding out how alone and desperate my brother was feeling made me realize that you never know what someone else is going through. My family is very close, but he was able to hide these feelings from all of us until it was almost too late. He is feeling better now, thanks to therapy, medicine, support from family and friends, and lifestyle changes, but I know that there is always a risk of him falling back into that dark place.
Instead of seeing people call Robin Williams selfish and blame his suicide on addiction, my wish is for people to have compassion and realize that someone you love may also be in a dark place and feeling like they don’t have any options. Instead of broadcasting your hatred and judgement, offer up your love and support. Your compassion goes a lot further than your hate.