Other People and depression and suicide

Other People are so weird about suicide, and depression. By Other People, I primarily mean people who have never had depression… but for some odd reason this category also includes people who have had depression. Of course, it’s worth noting that those people also tend to have some inspirational story about how they beat their depression by doing some cardio or cutting gluten out of their diets or some similar bullshit that will definitely work for you if you would just try it and believe and clap your hands or something.


But anyways. Other People. Which is really just short for “people who do not fucking get it.”

Here’s the thing. If people responded to physical* injury and emergencies the way that Other People respond to mental illness, it would basically be completely ludicrous.

Imagine someone sitting next to a person who has been in an accident, who’s been shot or stabbed or <i>something.</i> Whatever it is, they’re bleeding. And this other person is sitting there, giving them inspirational speeches, telling them about lights at the end of tunnels and the future and all of the things that they could do if they would live, and sincerely believing that by doing so, they’re going to will this person’s body to stop bleeding, to will their blood back into their veins or magically change the amount of blood  that the human body can lose, so that in the end, the person doesn’t die. Because they gave a speech about willpower and believing in yourself, or something.

Silly, right?

Except, that’s how people treat those with depression. Like all we need is to have someone tell us that we’re really great (or really selfish, which is employed far too often) and that therefor we just need to believe and use our willpower and go for a jog or something and the magic suicide problem will go away. Like we need to hear a speech about perspective and our lack thereof or about how much better it gets and we’ll be dumbfounded, completely in awe of the idea that <i>really, you mean things would be better if we weren’t being driven to suicide by our own brains?</i> Like we haven’t heard literally every anti-suicide-stop-being-depressed speech in the book and even a few from the movie adaption.

Or, imagine something different. Two people, walking on an icy bridge. One starts to lose their footing. The other doesn’t notice, which, hey, maybe they’re just not very attentive. But the other one starts to really slip, and now they’ve fallen, and they’re starting to slide to the edge, and the other still doesn’t take any real notice. Not that they don’t see the person slipping, it just doesn’t register for them as something to pay attention to, or care about. And now the other person is falling off the bridge, perhaps clinging to the edge for the moment while the other watches them, still not taking notice of any danger, still not trying to help.

And then they slip off the edge, and they fall down to whatever there is below. 

That’s when the other person notices. And they rush down to them, wherever they are, and they’re shocked, so shocked, that now this person is down there at the bottom of the bridge. They didn’t see them falling coming at all. And now while the person who fell is bleeding and broken and dying, they’re giving the speeches about how they just need to believe in themselves, maybe they’re doing a bit of blaming them for falling off the bridge, perhaps even they’re telling the person who fell that they need to call an ambulance. Of course, in some instance the person who didn’t fall is chastising the one who did for interrupting the schedule of their day with these falling-off-a-bridge shenanigans.

I mean, maybe. That’s if they even noticed when the person fell off. Which is optional in this scenario, really.

But let’s go back a bit. What if instead of falling off straight away, the person on the ledge is clinging there, with a death grip on a railing, or perhaps just digging their fingers into the ice for dear life and holding on as hard as they can. And they can’t pull themselves up, but it would be an easy feat for someone else to do so. Maybe even the person they were walking with.

Except for one problem. That particular person has a thing for stomping on the hands of people clinging to the edge of bridges (they’re always surprised at the resultant fall, of course). And maybe the clinging person doesn’t know if they’re in a stomping mood today. Maybe they just happen to know that they wore their cleats today. Maybe they actually seem nice today, and at worst they’re only wearing bunny slippers, but the risk is still incredibly great.

So now the person on the ledge is doing a risk analysis in their head as they hang there. The other person hasn’t noticed them hanging yet. They could call out to them, ask them for a hand up, but they’d risk turning their attention to their stompable hands. They could try to call out for help from someone else, and perhaps they would pull them up (if they don’t like stomping hands too) but doing so in the presence of hand-stompy would still alert their attention, along with angering them at how rude they were to ask someone else for help when <i>of course if they just asked they would give them a hand, how dare they suggest they would’ve stomped on their hands</i>.

Or they could just try to hang there until they leave, and hope that they don’t slip, and that someone nicer takes the place of hand-stompy. 

And they would know, no matter what choice they take, that they would be blamed for it. That if they called out to the person who might kick them off and were kicked off, they’d be blamed for falling. That if they called to someone else they’d be blamed for not trusting the first person. That if they held on on their own and eventually slipped, they’d be blamed for not telling anyone.

Now back to the bottom of the bridge, where the person who fell is now being “tended” to by the now <i>totally genuinely</i> concerned other person. Though, actually, the bottom of a bridge isn’t really great for this part of the metaphor. How about, instead, they’re both in a remote forest. And for whatever reason, the person who fell off the bridge in the first metaphor is still bleeding and dying. This forest being remote, both of the people’s phones are dead, so they can’t call for any kind of help.

The person who is injured has already realized this, and they’re trying to find other ways to save themselves and stop the bleeding. But the other person keeps insisting that they call 911, or get some bandages out of a nonexistant first aid kit. The injured person ignores them, and tries to make themself bandages out of leaves, just to stop the bleeding as much as possible. This makes the other person angry, as they insist that leaves are not the proper treatment for bleeding. The injured person still ignores them, because proper or not it’s all they have. Then it turns out that the leaves are poison ivy, and the other person takes them from the injured person, informing them that poison ivy is poisonous (to no surprise of the injured person) and therefor do not make good bandages, and that they just need to call 911 using their phone with no connection.

Spoiler alert, the injured person bleeds to death in the end. Because they couldn’t even have the improper methods of saving themself.


I sincerely hope that that all of that sounds ridiculous. It is. But it’s also, sadly, reality. That’s a perfect metaphor for depression; Or at the very least, my particular brand of it, due to the extra dependencies and gatekeepings that came with mine.

That really is what it’s like to deal with depression though- or what Other People are like anyways. They don’t see you when you’re slipping and falling, they hurt you when you reach out for help (if you even reach out, and don’t know from past experience that they’ll do such), they don’t care in the slightest until you’re dying and suicidal and when it’s dramatic and cinematic and when they can be the brave hero giving the speech to will your blood to flow backwards back into your wounds. And when you try to help yourself, to make yourself feel better, in ways that aren’t perfect or entirely healthy or proper, but still the only method that you have. And they insist that you do things that are impossible. 

For the record, in those metaphors, the moment of slipping off the bridge entirely isn’t parallel to the point of attempting suicide. That’s the moment of slipping into suicidal ideation. When you’re lying there at the bottom of the bridge, or in the middle of the forest, and when you’re already bleeding out and dying, that’s just when you’re starting to consider suicide. 

Because that’s what it’s like. I really loathe to call suicide attempts, suicide “attempts”, because it’s.. backwards. When you have depression and when you’re going through the clinically sanitized term of “suicidal ideation”, you’re not attempting to die. You’re not attempting to be bleeding. You are bleeding. You <i>are</i> dying. The only thing that can be construed as “attempts” are the attempts at living that you have to make every moment of your life just to continue having one. When people actually do try to commit suicide, they’re not attempting to die. They’ve stopped attempting to live. Not because they don’t care anymore and need to be reminded about perspective and given a speech, but because they’re out of attempts. They’ve been bleeding, and they hit the point that there’s no more blood to lose, that they’ve lost more blood than the body can survive without. They never attempted to lose too much blood.

And some of the people who are bleeding out can’t call for an ambulance, and they don’t have a first aid kit with bandages to cover their wound. Or they don’t have a therapist, or the ability to get one, or antidepressants. But usually they have something. Like illegal drugs, or thrill seeking, or alcohol, or running away, or self harm, or isolation, or anger, or sadness, or something else that people call wrong. And so those people try to take those wrong things away. They tell these people that these things are ruining their life, and harming their body (and again, this is no shock to the people told) and take them away.

And with them, they take away the life to ruin and the body to harm.


It’s legitimately scary to write about this. Because I know that it’s taboo. You can’t talk about suicide without ending your narrative with how it’s “wrong.” Or telling people the hotlines to call and the doctors to go to to get the help that they totally didn’t know about before (and totally hadn’t used before). Or trying to talk random people reading off the edge. Or telling people that certain coping mechanisms are wrong because they’re harmful. Or, otherwise, judging suicidal people and assuming that they’re basically idiots regarding their own minds.

And it’s also, just, scary. Because I know that there are internet vigilantes out there. Vigilantes who look for people who talk about being suicidal and try their damnedest to send the police to their home to force help upon them. And I know that that thought terrifies me. Not just because of the stories about the police who shoot down people who are considering suicide which, really, should be enough. But because I’m in the scenario where I’m hanging off the bridge, and I want to call for help, but the people who are supposed to help me are the ones that like to stomp on hands. I’ve had my fingers broken from calling for help from the edge before. I know not to do it again, and I know that I have to hang there. I know not to call for help while they’re there- but if someone else, some internet vigilante did it for me, it wouldn’t be in my control, and I’d have a be-cleated stomper at my hands again. 

(Internet Vigilantes are Other People too)


*- it is worth nothing that depression and all other mental illnesses [i]are[/i] physical, due to their being part of the brain. But for ease I’m making an arbitrary divide between “physical” injuries and illness and brainy ones.


5 responses to “Other People and depression and suicide

  1. laurennjade January 3, 2013 at 5:04 am

    I love this. The perspective with which you write these metaphors is stunning and honest and real. Fantastic.

  2. Almulhida January 3, 2013 at 10:40 am

    It’s eerie how much of my high school life peers at me through your words. It’s been nine years now since I wrote something like this in my livejournal out of frustration at the inability to talk to anyone about being suicidal without getting anything but stupid platitudes thrown at me, or ‘help’ that makes things worse. The comments I got weren’t helpful. Apparently complaining you can’t talk about suicide without getting stupid platitudes tossed in your face gets you stupid platitudes tossed in your face.

    I kept it to myself as best I could. It was never easy to know who I could trust enough to reach out to, so I just didn’t. Being trans complicated it further. I learned quickly enough that being suicidal gets held against you when you’re trying to transition; apparently you need to have your life together before the gatekeepers will let you do it, which is ridiculous, given that I was suicidal partially because of the trans issues. Demanding that the symptom be eliminated before allowing the problem to be treated is incoherent at best, but welcome to paternalism.

  3. Thomas Guihen January 10, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    There is much ignorance surrounding mental illness and stigma too and it is a shame that this prejudice exists. Your analogy to physical illness is rather apt. Something which cannot be seen can be dismissed and this may be why so many do exactly that – which helps no one. There definitely needs to be greater awareness and understanding of this issue amongst the general public.

  4. Michael Kingsford Gray January 28, 2013 at 5:11 am

    I am honestly glad that you seem to have made others feel happier.

  5. vurthious February 12, 2013 at 6:14 am

    Check your article writing skills, and would love to have you check my blog and thanks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: