Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tragedy Leading to Weekend of Reflection

This past Saturday, I attended a memorial service for a young man (age 34) who committed suicide over New Year’s weekend. I was merely an acquaintance of this young man (i.e., friend of a friend), but the news greatly saddened me.

For the past few days, I’ve been trying to make sense out of this seemingly senseless act by a handsome, witty young man that seemingly had everything going for him.

Nothing still makes sense, but here are a couple things that I hope to have learned from this tragedy.

Seek Help for Depression
During the service, the father of the young man explained that the decedent suffered from clinical depression, which runs in the family. The decedent didn’t seek help but chose rather to self-medicate with alcohol. The father implored everyone to seek help if they are depressed since it won’t just go away.

This struck a chord since my family has a history of depression and suicide. My family never discusses this issue since this is considered a "disgrace" within my culture.

According to WebMD, major depression affects about 14 million American adults or about 6.7% of the population 18 or older in any given year.

Untreated clinical depression is a serious problem.
Untreated depression increases the chance of risky behaviors such as drug or alcohol addiction. It also can ruin relationships, cause problems at work, make it difficult to overcome serious illnesses, and even result in suicide.

Clinical depression, also known as major depression, is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. Clinical depression affects the way you eat and sleep. It affects the way you feel about yourself and those around you. It even affects your thoughts.

People who are depressed cannot simply "pull themselves together" and be cured.
I've personally witnessed the devastation suffered by survivors of suicide. I would never want to put my loved ones through such an ordeal. I hope and pray that should I ever suffer from major depression, that I would have the strength and courage to seek help. There is no shame in seeking treatment for depression.

Take Care of Your Loved Ones After Your Death
The young man was engaged to be married this summer. The home that he shared with his fiance was only in his name, and the fiance is currently pondering where she will live next.

I don't know whether the young man's estate will be distributed via probate or via intestate laws. But this demonstrates the importance of estate planning at any stage of your life.

Every estate plan should include:
  1. a will (a written document that says who gets what and names guardians for minors);
  2. signed durable power of attorney (which names a person who can make financial decisions for you when you are unable);
  3. a health care proxy (which names the person who will make medical decisions for you in the event of your incapacitation), and
  4. a written living will (which sets forth how much medical intervention you want to receive).
Additionally, as Miss M wisely points out, it would behoove all of us to create a financial inventory which would help if someone needs to handle your finances for you (e.g., your attorney-in-fact vis a vis a durable power of attorney).

None of this will alleviate the survivors' pain associated with the death of a loved one, but it will ensure that the deceased's assets are protected for the benefit of the survivors.

Do Not Be Isolated
Many people attended the young man's memorial service. I wondered how many of these people did this young man reach out to and vice versa?

Just as a better quality of life may lead to more social interaction, a more developed social network probably promotes better quality of life. Therefore, interventions that target social interaction should be part of the support for people suffering from depression or other illnesses.


Miss M said...

My condolences to you, your friends and this young man's family. I've had several friends and family commit suicide, it's hard to come to terms with. My grandfather committed suicide last year, he was old and had cancer, but still it was very unexpected. Unless they reach out to you, it can be hard to tell when someone has passed beyond being sad to dangerously depressed. Whatever this young man's burdens were, they were too much for him. I hope his fiancee is OK, she must be devastated.

Sharon Rose said...

Hi there-My sincerest sympathies to you my dear, such a sad situation. You are so right about finances though, it is something we should all make sure is in place properly.

FruGal said...

That's really sad. I have a couple of friends who I know suffer from depression, hopefully neither of them will ever do this. Things like this make you aware of how some people live amongst us and really feel that there's nothing worth living for, and no one to reach out to. Breaks your heart.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about your friend. :-\

It's sad, the way depression is still such a taboo topic. One of my friends (for a psychology class) wore a sandwich board on himself that said "I wish I were dead" and "Why am I so stupid?" People threw things at him or insulted him or crossed the street to avoid him.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about this tragedy. It's very sad. I hope anyone with depression gets treated. There are a lot of treatments out there!