Wednesday, 20 August 2014

More on Depression. And Cancer

In blogging circles there is a widely held theory (proven I think), that if you title your post 'TITS!  BOOBIES!!!  MORE TITS!!!' you will get record hits.  I think with this post I'll probably prove the corollary ;-)

I found the coverage of Robin William's suicide interesting.  For a while he was almost literally the poster boy for male depression, such were the number of memes (like the one I shared the other day) that his death sprouted.  In the media there were a lot of very thoughtful articles and reports about how depression, self-harm and suicide were hidden epidemics affecting the male population.

Yet, old tropes still came up.  I can imagine editors sitting around saying "But what did he have to be depressed about?  There must be another story here."  So, as in the beginning of 'Citizen Kane', we seemed to have reported set out to find reasons.  We got the old 'Tears of the Clown' stories with articles about how depression is the price of comic genius (just as alcoholism is the price of being a writer; or serving in Flanders is a required qualification for writing poetry); we got articles about how divorce and property deals had whittled away his fortune.  And then came the statement from the family that Williams had be diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease: and you could practically hear a collective sigh of relief - "Of course he was depressed."  The articles about mental health dried up.

Well I'm sorry, that's not how it works.  Depression isn't logical, and suicide especially isn't.  It would be nice if it was: the we'd only have to identify what was bothering someone and remove it, then they'd be able to snap out of it and pull themselves together.  As if...

Of course if you have worries it all adds up, but depression strikes everyone, millionaires and members of supportive families just as it affects the unemployed, the homeless and the lonely.  And that's not even to mention Anxiety, which I'm not going to touch on.

And now a happier story

This isn't something I'm involved in, but news of it popped into my Facebook feed this afternoon.

The Aftermath Gaming Club in Norwich will be running a 24-hour gaming event in aid of WAAC, starting at 10.00am on Saturday 23 August and lasting 24 hours.  Details here.

WAAC is 'Wargamers All Against Cancer' set up after a wargamer's mother was diagnosed with cancer.  It is raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support - details of WAAC can be found on their Just Giving page, where you can make donations (they're already very near their £3,000 target, hopefully they will make more).


  1. From one who suffers from depression, I can only say it is not nice and I would give my right arm to be able to snap out of it at times, the one real benefit is you find out just who your real friends are.

  2. Thoughtful post, Sir. I've lost several friends to depression. Robin, although not a friend, is yet another terrible loss. I have fond memories of his USO shows and how he added color and merriment to deployments.
    Suicide is not ever an answer, but I cannot call any who tried or succeeded cowards. They are all very brave for that couple of seconds. I wish Robin, and my friends who were successful in the attempt, could know how many were left missing them.

    @Andrew- keep Rucking on , buddy. I have a bucket list to fulfill upon my retirement. Top on the list is traveling to England and going to a convention or two and meeting and perhaps gaming with a few blooger friends there. You and the Rejects are on the top of the list! Don't tick off the Indians, as G A Custer can attest to! ;)

  3. Well said. I find depression is more likely to hit when things are going well.

  4. Even with professional help Clinical Depression is a terrible thing. It comes at will, can linger long and make one long to be free of the pain. Some choose to end their lives. I suffer from it and at times feel like it would be better to end it all. Obviously I haven't made that choice yet. But one never knows when I'll have had enough and just go.

    1. Don't do it Anne.

      As one who's been there, didn't quite make it and then saw the hassle it'd caused everyone. I'd say it's not worth it.

  5. Thougful post and thoughtful replies. The old Black Dog is such a friendly thing that he's asleep by your fireside before you know it and we feed him and water him without a thought until it's too late.
    Suicides? I don't think they're brave or cowardly, they've just reached the stage where it seems the logical (sometimes only, sometimes desirable) solution. They'll not be damned or burn in purgatory. If there is a God, I'm sure He or She or It will understand.
    It's an illness, not a weakness and it's barely understood. Unfortunately it's also becoming quite the thing among some groups and is just fine for attracting attention. Now that's a thing to be condemned.

    1. I don't quite understand the bit at the end, but I agree whole-heartedly with the rest. Having said that, wearing my theological hat, I'd like to point out that there aren't any fires in purgatory (that's one of the Other Places!).

      For me suicide has never been about courage or cowardliness. It's a stage of despair and hopelessness, when there's nothing else left.

    2. Oops, yep, no fires in Purgatory! Basil Foster Buckley (St Ignatius, Salford [High Church Anglican] from about 1930 to 1974-ish) would have had my guts for that.

      Yes, that last bit. It's becoming quite fashionable among the glitterati in a variety of circles to claim to be suffering from depression. In the past year or so I can think of several alleged celebs and also some friends (of friends) who've laid claim to the illness while 'confessing to a journalist or a sympathetic audience. When I hear the wail "I'm just so depressed", I can barely resist the urge to reach for the veg knife.

  6. Another good, and thoughtful post. For a minute though there, you had me worried.

  7. Thanks for taking the time to mull over the subject of depression.

    Very well put.


  8. Very thoughtful, very powerful. My neighbor was the nicest guy you'd ever meet. He killed himself one night and his kids came home to find that. I think about all of them quite a lot and how they've had to hold up.

  9. Excellent post! I know far too many that have tried to take their own lives, unfortunately some succeeded!

  10. Hello Edwin:

    A belated thanks for this post. Depression and suicide are finally getting the exposure they need in the Canadian military, and for that I'm grateful, even though we still lose too many people to it .. well, even one is too many. I have a little experience with depression. My dear wife functions well because of medication, and has for decades. For some people it's a simple matter of neurochemistry, imbalances of certain levels of naturally occurring materials in the brain that can be corrected due to medicine. For some it's a temporary condition, for others, like my wife, a permanent one. Often I tend to see depression as a crisis of meaning - separation from a loved one who has died is one cause. Other causes of loss of meaning are loss of health (it's not a coincidence, I think, that Robin Williams had been recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease), separation from a job and social network that gives meaning is another, which is why I see so many military people struggling when they are involuntarily released from the tight bonds of military life through forced retirement or early release because of medical issues, redundancies, etc. Suddenly the social world and self image that gave them purpose are gone, and they have nothing else to focus a meaningful life on.
    I find that hobbies and social activities are hugely beneficial in giving meaning to life. I see that in wargaming and the other groups I've been part of, cycling, running, etc. The encouragement of friends, the sense of mastering a skill, are all helpful. I am so grateful for the encouragement and friendship I see in the hobby blogosphere. I wish I could read and comment every single post on every single blog, because we all need the connection with others, even with those we've never met.
    Finally, on a religious note, as I am a clergyman, I think the churches are finally coming to terms with suicide as an illness and not as a sin. Mental illness, depression and suicidal thoughts are no different than cancer or any other type of illness. They deserve loving support and attention, not condemnation.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...