by Father Frank Mann
This time of the year can often be a difficult and tumultuous one for many individuals. Recently, a 19-year-old man jumped to his death from the east tower of the Brooklyn Bridge. He was on top of the tower for approximately 45 minutes before ending his life. During that time, traffic was halted on the bridge as the NYPD’s Emergency Services Unit and other personnel scrambled to get to him.
Often, many of us never really take notice that perhaps we ourselves or someone whom we know may be afflicted with a personal misery so severe that it can end in suicide. No one can argue the harsh fact that depression can often kill. This insidious disease is both brutal and debilitating. It can hurl its prey into a hellish cauldron of despair, an immobilizing and maddening nightmare. Depression is an existential tsunami that takes its raging toll and gradually erodes one’s ability to experience meaning and enjoyment in life. It suffocates and mummifies the tormented and entrapped soul, rendering the individual unable to touch the world.
The artist Edvard Munch illustrates this angst best in his world-renowned painting, “The Scream.” The most subjectively accurate description in literature of this affliction can be found in William Styron’s “Darkness Visible.” The devastating descent into depression is described by Styron as “the despair beyond despair.” Styron offers an intimate and personal portrait of the agonizing sting of this illness, revealing the relentless anguish of a mind he describes as being “desperate unto death.”
There are readily available treatments for depression. Likewise, the person who suffers needs to be assured and reminded that it is not he or she, but the depression itself, that is “doing the talking.” The disruptive and destructively pervasive nature of this illness does not have to be triumphant. There is, as the well-known Christian hymn states, “…a balm in Gilead.” Welcomed healing and assured hope often lifts the weighted curtain that separates the light from the darkness.
If you have a loved one struggling to cope with depression, offer your generous gift of help. Try not to leave that individual alone. Most certainly, if you are in such distress, overwhelmed or experiencing a crisis or feeling suicidal, call the 24-hour Samaritan hotline (212-673-3000) or the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). These “centers” offer compassionate and trained individuals who can provide free, accessible and immediate emotional support in complete confidence. Likewise, go to or take the individual in crisis to an emergency room or to a medical or mental health professional. One must never hesitate or be embarrassed to ask anyone for help. Depression can be successfully treated with timely intervention.
The vast majority of individuals who suffer do indeed survive and abundantly thrive. Readers of The Tablet can attend an important presentation at St. Sebastian Church-Auditorium, Woodside, on Jan. 13, 2013 at 3 p.m. Project Connect (of the Child Health Partership at St. John’s University) will consider the elements of suicide, what to look for, how to help, reach out and cope. All are invited. For more information, call St. Sebastian’s at 718-429-4442.