This is a difficult article to write and one that needs to be written. Don Harman showed us that depression has a face. Outwardly, it can look very much like Mr. Harman: happy, smiling, reassuring, authentic, jovial, and trusting. However, behind this mask is a broken individual who has a horrible illness. Depression twists and contorts the mind to the point that the person feels so horribly hopeless that the light at the end of the tunnel fades and then there is no light…lost. None of us know why Mr. Harman elected to leave this world by his own hands. As a professional, I know that this is not a decision that one arrives at easily. This is usually contemplated for years prior to the actual act. During that time depression insidiously consumes the person and there are usually signs, warnings, “red flags” that we need to be educated about.
Depression does not know status, wealth, success, defeats, love, happiness, relationships, kids, wife, job, or family, nor does it care. Suicide is not a selfish act to the person committing it. Many times the depressed mind has literally convinced the person that they are doing everyone a favor by killing themselves: “They’re better off without me. I’m a burden. No one should be around me like this. I’m tired of hurting everyone, disappointing everyone. I can’t live up to everyone’s expectations.”
Many times there are warning signs, sometimes there are not. The biggest warning sign is if a person is talking about a desire to die – pay attention. Hopelessness is probably the biggest factor associated with suicide, simply because the person has mentally determined that their future is not going to get better and therefore, they are going to suffer this way for the rest of their life. Other signs of depression include sadness, withdrawal, isolation, anhedonia (lack of the ability to experience pleasure), sleep problems, excessive fatigue, feelings of worthlessness. Dangerous signs that may lead to suicide could be: increase in risk taking behaviors or impulsivity, drug and alcohol use, making suicidal threats or gestures, making a plan to include giving away possessions, obtaining the means to kill themselves, “coded” talk – speaking about when they are gone.
For more information or for help call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (suicidepreventionlifeline.org). You can also be assessed by a local psychologist or go inpatient at one of the numerous mental health facilities around Kansas City.
For some of us the only experience we have with suicide is from movies. Since it is getting close to Christmas you will see “It’s A Wonderful Life” on television somewhere. You will watch George Banks go through years of one defeat after another, slowly eating away at him, until he is standing on the bridge about to jump. Suddenly, Clarence shows up and spends the rest of the movie untangling George’s twisted, depressed mind until George finally understands how “rich” he truly is and, only then, can he clearly see what’s important in life.
I’m guessing that Mr. Harman was very much like George, unable to see how he affected the lives of those of us around him in such positive ways, how many people felt friendly toward him only to now feel the sense of loss and sadness. I’m wishing that Mr. Harman reached out for help. I’m wishing that Mr. Harman could have seen through the tangled web of lies depression weaves. I’m wishing that Mr. Harman could have recognized that it truly is a wonderful life. I’m wishing that Clarence would have shown up. Many blessings to Mr. Harman’s family and friends.