Letter to the Editor: Suicide is an epidemic

To the Editor:
I find myself writing this after the tragic loss of a Hollywood icon. It’s not an easy subject to talk about, but it’s one that just cannot be ignored. Chances are, your life has been affected by suicide. You may have had a relative, a friend, co-worker, an acquaintance, or spouse take their life. Often times people ask, “Why?” “What could be so bad that they would want to end their life?” “How could they be so selfish?” It is questions like these that show just how uneducated society is about mental illness.
Depression is a mental illness - a disease of the brain. There is a disconnect in a person’s brain that stops the flow of serotonin, or the stuff that makes us feel ‘good’. What causes this disconnect? It could be genetic, environmental, or social. Some people are genetically predisposed (genetic) to depression. It runs in the family, so they are susceptible to it. Some may be exposed to toxins or have a head injury (environmental), causing one to suffer from depression. Finally, the social aspect: economic hardships, bullying, neglect, even the death of a loved one. Regardless of the cause, those suffering from depression are at risk of death by suicide.
We as humans cannot control certain aspects of our lives, this being one of them. We cannot just tell ourselves to feel better, and then expect it to happen. That would be equivalent to saying those who have diabetes should tell their bodies to make enough insulin so they don’t have to take insulin shots anymore.
People with depression cannot always control their thoughts. They cannot help how they feel. Eventually, they get so tired of fighting the battle, they end up losing the war. They are in such a dark place, they feel the only way out is by ending their life. This is where we, as a society, need to step it up. We need to educate. We need to advocate. We need to prevent. We need to support. A way to start is by participating in an Out of the Darkness walk this fall, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Help raise money so we can raise awareness on this taboo topic, and prevent the suicide rate from increasing year after year like it has been.
My brother didn’t choose to be mentally ill. He was not selfish for taking his life. He was desperate for relief, like so many others are day after day. Be proactive and educate yourself to recognize the signs of depression before it’s too late. Please join me in the fight.

Dacia Sommer
Waukon

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