Thursday, December 5, 2013

On the ledge...

Tis the season for depression and suicide attempts…  Today's post is about that.  

Billy (Rob Lowe) comforts Jules (Demi Moore)…

In 1985, Joel Schumacher's film, St. Elmo's Fire, was all the rage.  It starred many members of the "Brat Pack" and had elements of drama and comedy.  Even 28 years later, I still like this film a lot, though I'm probably not as impressed with it today as I was in the 80s.  Anyway, the scene posted above is probably the climax of the film.  Rob Lowe, who was quite the sexpot in 1985, takes care of  Demi Moore, who was also quite the sexpot in 1985.  As an impressionable 13 year old in 1985, my heart kind of melted when I saw this scene, even though Lowe's character was pretty much a jerk for most of the movie.  So was Demi Moore's character, for that matter.

On a human level, it's touching to see people comforting each other.  Take, for instance, this kind-hearted bus driver who recently stopped a woman from killing herself…

The first time I watched this video, it brought tears to my eyes.  So many people would have just blown past this woman who was about to take her own life.  While I realize that by doing what he did, she probably ended up in a psych ward for 3 days, it's probably preferable to suicide.  I don't know what her circumstances are, nor do I think that suicide is always the wrong choice.  There are some situations in which it might make sense.  For most people, though, it really is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  People get suicidal when they become overwhelmed and can't see another way… or when they want to punish someone.


I was in Barbados a couple of years ago, watching TV in my hotel room, when I saw a show about Tina Zahn, a woman who struggled with postpartum depression and almost killed herself in 2004.  She wrote a book about her ordeal, which I read after seeing her story featured on TV.  Thanks to the timely assistance of several police officers, she was saved from jumping off a bridge in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  She has since recovered from postpartum depression.

About fifteen years ago, I went through my own depression.  It got pretty bad for awhile.  During that time, I started reading a lot of books about depression and suicide.  Some of them were very helpful.  The one that helped me the most was called Suicide: The Forever Decision.  Written by Paul G. Quinnett, this book was very easy to read, direct, and forthright.  Some people might not like it for that reason.  Quinnett brooks no nonsense.  He acknowledges that suicide is a solution.  But for most people, it's not the best solution.  Quinnett has a theory that suicidally depressed people are kind of like a bug in a cup.  They can't see over the "lip" of the cup… all they see is the inside of the cup and the way it traps them.  They don't see that there is an escape at the top of the cup.  Or if they do see it, it seems like climbing that high is impossible or not worth the effort.  Depressed people don't have all the information they need to make good decisions about whether or not their lives are still worth living.  

Not sure how I feel about this video…

Obviously, this lady was in serious trouble.  She drew a big crowd as she contemplated ending her life in a very public way.  Apparently, everyone down there was happy she was saved, though I'm guessing that most people who knew her did little to help her as she suffered the events that led up to this decision.  

The above video was done by a veteran whose life was saved by his dog… a pit bull of all things.  

You never know where you'll find comfort when you are on the ledge.  I find that my dogs are a tremendous source of comfort, though I haven't been really depressed in years.  Obviously, the guy in the above video was also helped by a four legged companion.  

I remember a few years ago, I read about former comedian, actor, and game show host, Ray Combs.  Combs was a father of six who became overwhelmed with family and financial problems.  He and his estranged wife of eighteen years were on the brink of divorce when he took his life in a psychiatric ward.  He was only 40 years old.  

A lot of people think comedians are happy because they make people laugh…  Not so.

Richard Jeni is another comedian who ended his life...
Richard Jeni was a very funny man who killed himself.  His girlfriend found him with a fatal self-inflicted gunshot would to the head.  He was severely depressed and had experienced extreme psychotic paranoia.  I have found that a lot of people who seem funny on the surface are often masking the pain of depression with jokes.  I remember one colonel Bill used to work with who was always funny at staff parties.  But when you got him alone or talked to him one on one, you could see that he wasn't a particularly happy person.  People used to tell me that I seemed happy, but I, too, was masking pain with jokes.

My own experiences with depression taught me that it's a very real illness caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.  I used to think there was something wrong with me personally when I had these extreme bouts of sadness and hopelessness.  When I found the right antidepressant, I suddenly felt a whole lot better.  That taught me that depression is very treatable, though the process of getting treatment can be excruciating.  From finding the right mental health professional to finding the right medication to talking about personal problems that lead to depression, it's not easy to get help.  But when you do manage to find it, recovery can feel miraculous.

This time of year is tough for a lot of people.  For all my bitching, the holidays are not as hard for me today as they were in the past.  To all my lurkers, I hope your holiday season is depression free.  And if you do feel depressed, let me encourage you to try to find competent help.  It's out there and it can change, and even save, your life.  And if you need to talk to someone right now, please call 1-800-273-8255.  You can also click the link to chat with someone.   


  1. I remember Ray Combs from "Family Feud." He was LDS.

    I'm not a Demi Moore fan.

    Sometimes I'm depressed but usually not for too long. For me it's usually related to blood sugar or sleep. For most people there's not such an easy fix.

    1. Yeah, he was LDS. I read somewhere that he actually attempted suicide on his wife's birthday. If that's true, wow… I remember seeing him on Family Feud and hearing the way he talked to some of the contestants. He was not a happy man.

      I'm not a Demi Moore fan either, though I liked her in St. Elmo's Fire.

      I am familiar with being irritable and upset because I'm tired, sick, or hungry. That's not really the same as depression, though. Depression makes you feel like everything just sucks. You have no energy or inclination to do anything. You feel hopeless and worthless. It's a terrible way to feel.


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