Tuesday, April 19, 2011


On Sunday a 16 year old girl jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.  She intended to kill herself.  Every 17 minutes a suicide succeeds in the United States.  Hers did not.  She was extremely lucky.  A sailboat came to her aid and the skipper jumped in to hold her face out of the water until the Coast Guard arrived.  She is expected to survive her injuries. The few who do say they knew right away that they wanted to live.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 - 24, the eleventh leading cause for all Americans.  Each suicide intimately affects at least six other people.  One out of every 64 Americans has lost a loved one to suicide in the last 25 years.

Untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide.

I used to listen to Garrison Keillor's popular program, A Prairie Home Companion.  His monologues can be very funny - laugh out loud funny when you're driving somewhere with the radio on.  One day his monologue segment was about Prozac.  Prozac is an antidepressant.  It is not a tranquillizer, not a narcotic.  It does not give you a quick "high".  It works to achieve balanced brain chemistry and relieve the helpless and hopeless symptoms of depression.  Keillor's segment was cruel.  It portrayed a suburban clique of elderly people trafficking in black market Prozac to take advantage what he called the weak-willed market for drugs.  Mr. Keillor apparently  did not know that there has been a significant increase in the suicide rate in the over 75 age group.

I wrote to Mr. Keillor.  I told him that in my view he had contributed to the stigma that prevents many from seeking help for depression.  I provided information and expressed surprise at his ignorance.  The reply I received was a form letter thanking me for listening to his program. I don't, anymore.

Please learn the facts.  Visit the Suicide website.  Put their hotline number in your phone directory: 1 800 784 2433.  In the time I have taken to write this post 2 more have died at their own hand.  Take the offense against this tragedy.  Stop the stigma. 

1 comment:

  1. With all the miraculous advances in medical and behavioral therapy to treat mental illness, it's galling that stigma still exists. Unfortunately, many still see mental heath issues as a weakness of character or upbringing (which it is not) and place the burden of recovery on the patient. I'm reminded of this exchange from MacBeth regarding Lady MacBeth's mental breakdown. After 400 years, the doctor's advice here is still too often viewed as best course of action (again it is not):


    Not so sick, my lord,
    As she is troubled with thick coming fancies,
    That keep her from her rest.


    Cure her of that.
    Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,
    Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,
    Raze out the written troubles of the brain
    And with some sweet oblivious antidote
    Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff
    Which weighs upon the heart?


    Therein the patient
    Must minister to himself.