Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lives Lost and Hearts Broken

I previously had written a blog entry concerning suicide.  I was nervous about how to approach the topic of suicide, so I shared more general information in the previous post.  However, since then I've felt the need to share some more information regarding suicide, in hopes that my message might convey my desire to help others 'choose life.'  This is not an easy subject to approach or to share personal insights on.  I have taken time to ponder and to write and rewrite the contents of this post.  I hope that the message I'm trying to convey will touch hearts and the Spirit of hope and love that this is written with will shine through.

As members of the Church of  Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints we are taught of the importance of caring for our bodies.  We understand that obtaining a physical body as we enter into mortal life, is an important and essential part of our learning here on Earth and our progression towards eternal life.

In Moses 1:39  it reads:
"For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."
We are taught in this scripture that the Savior's work is to provide for us the pathway to resurrection in which our bodies and spirits will be reunited after the separation of physical death in our mortal state.  As mortal beings we are imperfect and therefore require the atonement to aid us in overcoming our imperfections and to provide us with the strength necessary to be able to bear the burden of our individual adversities and trials.  It is only through the atonement that we are capable of becoming more like our Father in Heaven and obtaining the gift of eternal life.  Having a physical body is a precursor that is necessary for us to obtain in order for our eternal progression to continue.

Understanding that the gift of a physical 00body is vital to Heavenly Father's plan, can help us to recognize the importance of caring for our bodies.  God gave us life when He provided for us a physical body to house our spirits. Because our lives are essentially a gift from God, it is not our right to decide when life should end.  We understand the grave consequences of ending an other person's life, but what about those who choose to end their own life?  What happens to them?

There are still many things about suicide that we don't have answers to.  Knowing that we don't understand and comprehend all things, can help us to find a deeper gratitude for the one who is all knowing.  We can count our blessings that us, with our limited knowledge and understanding are not responsible for judging the acts and choices of others.  There are some things that we have been taught by prophets  that I feel are important for us to understand, concerning suicide. 

Elder M. Russell Ballard provided for us some insights into answers pertaining to suicide.  He said:
"The act of taking one’s life is truly a tragedy because this single act leaves so many victims: first the one who dies, then the dozens of others—family and friends—who are left behind, some to face years of deep pain and confusion. The living victims struggle, often desperately, with difficult emotions. In addition to the feelings of grief, anger, guilt, and rejection which the victims of such a family feel, Latter-day Saints carry an additional burden. The purpose of our mortal lives, we know, is to prove ourselves, to eventually return to live in the celestial kingdom. One who commits suicide closes the door on all that, some have thought, consigning himself to the telestial kingdom.  Or does he? What is the truth regarding suicide
I feel that judgement for sin is not always as cut-and-dried as some of us seem to think. The Lord said, 'Thou shalt not kill.' Does that mean that every person who kills will be condemned, no matter the circumstances? I feel the Lord recognized differences in intent and circumstances: Was the person who took his life mentally ill? Was he or she so deeply depressed as to be unbalanced or otherwise emotionally disturbed? Was the suicide a tragic, pitiful call for help that went unheeded too long or progressed faster than the victim intended? Did he or she somehow not understand the seriousness of the act? Was he or she suffering from a chemical imbalance in their system that led to despair and a loss of self-control?
Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth.When he does judge us, I feel he will take all things into consideration: our genetic and chemical makeup, our mental state, our intellectual capacity, the teachings we have received, the traditions of our fathers, our health, and so forth.
Thankfully, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught this enlightening doctrine:
'While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard. … He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, "according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil," or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India. … We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the Great Jehovah; He will award judgement or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and His inscrutable designs in relation to the human family; and when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right.' (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, edited by Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, p. 218.)

I draw an important conclusion from the words of the Prophet: Suicide is a sin—a very grievous one, yet the Lord will not judge the person who commits that sin strictly by the act itself. The Lord will look at that person’s circumstances and the degree of his accountability at the time of the act. Of course, this gives us no reason to excuse ourselves in committing sins, nor will the Lord excuse us, if I understand correctly. We must constantly strive to do our best in following the example of the Savior in every aspect of our lives. At the same time, however, let us remember that spiritual growth comes “line upon line,” that the key—in the spirit world as well as in mortality—is to keep progressing along the right path."  (M. Russell Ballard, “Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not,” Tambuli, Mar 1988, 16)
Because suicide is such a difficult and sensitive subject to know how to properly approach, I felt it important to refer to the teachings and insights of the church leaders in order to establish a more accurate perception and understanding concerning suicide. was hesitant to expound too much on this topic. As was stated previously, I have felt the need to bring additional enlightenment to the reality of suicide associated with mental illness, and hopefully take on at least a small role in contributing to some prevention of this terrible tragedy.  Although suicide is not a comfortable topic to discuss, it can have such a devastating impact on individuals, families, friends, and communities, that I recognize it as a necessity when addressing the concerns and risks of mental illness.  

Listed below I have included some facts and information concerning depression:
Clinical depression affects more than 15% of the population to an extent that they should seek treatment. People often don't seek treatment however and choose to believe that it is simply a bad mood that will pass. Indeed depression is known as the "common cold" of mental disorders and nearly a quarter of a million people are hospitalized with clinical depression every year. People get depressed over many things such as work, financial troubles, married people are more likely to get depressed than single people and the physical and emotional consequences of substance abuse can often resemble clinical depression.

Clinical depression is much more than being sad over high credit card bills, a missed promotion or loneliness, clinical depression is a serious, disabling condition that can consume life and can lead to thoughts suicide. Like many diseases such as cancer, clinical depression is progressive and will get worse if not treated. Fortunately clinical depression can be a temporary problem, unfortunately some people solve this temporary problem with a permanent action of suicide. It is important to seek treatment now before it gets worse.
National Referral has directed thousands of individuals to the resources they need to find a solution to their problem. Whether it is clinical depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, or co-dependency involving any of these disorders, National Referral can help.
If you or a loved one is having trouble concentrating, is often agitated or non-responsive and is suffering from a disruption of normal activities, we encourage you to call National Referral today. Clinical depression should be taken very seriously and action is required sooner than later.

The call is confidential and free so do call today.

Intervention and Treatment Referral  ("Clinical Depression", National Treatment Referral,

Knowing the potential serious consequences of untreated clinical depression, I want to share with you a personal experience that brought to my memory many vivid and heart wrenching reminders of my personal confrontation with suicide.  I recognize that I am opening up to share some very personal experiences, that are not easy to express.  However, I have been touched by others who have willingly shared with me their personal struggles with depression and contemplations/and or attempts of suicide.  As a result of the courage and the faith I have seen others display in choosing to continue to fight their battle in the midst of great turmoil, I too have felt the need to express the vital importance of continuing to find faith and hope, even, and most importantly, when we feel as if we are hopeless.

One evening not long ago, my ten year old son approached me wanting to show me two animated video clips that he had explained to me as being very sad.  As he proceeded to show me these video clips I discovered that they were displaying experiences of two different children who both had lost a parent. Integrated into these videos was also a portrayal of the troubling emotions and the extreme sorrow that these children were experiencing over their loss.  I initially didn't realize the depth of impact that these two videos had on my son, until shortly thereafter when I found him sitting on the couch with his Nintendo DS.  I approached him to attempt to reinforce with him the understanding that he can come to his dad and me at anytime to talk with us about anything he may not understand, or that makes him feel uncomfortable, or sad.  However, instead of finding him happily entertained by his hand held game, I found him on the couch sobbing uncontrollably.  He was so distraught that he stumbled over his words and he had difficulty in attempting to express his thoughts.  I motioned for my husband to come over, and through a series of questions we discovered his source of anguish.  Having seen these two videos of children who had lost a parent, conjured up a vision in my son's mind of him being in the position of losing a parent.  As he tried to assimilate this scenario, he was overcome with sadness and sorrow at the thought of this possibility.

Seeing my son so emotionally distraught in this situation, caused a recognition in me of how truly devastated my children would be if they lost their mom.  The grim reality and the heart wrenching reminder of my personal experiences set in.  I too was overcome with emotion.  I excused myself to my room where I began sobbing.  I experienced a gamut of emotions as I recalled a night when I was in the midst of one of my very lowest points in my battle with clinical depression.  I was completely engulfed with the overwhelming symptoms that accompany depression.  I felt indescribably hopeless and worthless. It was during this very dark time that I literally was brought face to face in a personal battle between life and death. 

I had never experienced some terrible life tragedy that brought me to this point of contemplation.  However, that is one of the ironic things about depression.  A person does not have to be the victim of a tragic event to become a sufferer of clinical depression.  This belief that is still so predominant creates the idea that if you are a victim of depression and you haven't experienced  a  terrible life tragedy that at least seems to somewhat explain why you would feel the way you do, then it must mean that you are just plain weak.

The belief that depression is only for the weak, has created a barrier that prevents people from being open with the idea of discussing depression.  Although there has been a trend amongst some to more freely discuss depression, the general population still considers it a taboo topic.

The victims of depression can come from any background, race, gender, income level, etc.  However, no matter the varying background of depressed individuals, each will suffer with distorted thoughts and emotions.  The distortions among depressed people are the very things that conjure up suicidal thoughts and wishes.  This is exactly why some individuals can have what is perceived to be a seemingly simple, trial free life, and yet they struggle with depression and suicidal tendencies.  While others deal with tragic losses and events and still remain hopeful and free from the grasp of depression.  It's not necessarily about whatever seemed to be the cause of depression, but it's more about the distorted thoughts and emotions that accompany depression,  which  then leads to feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and  in some cases, consideration of suicide. 

"Research studies have shown that your unrealistic sense of hopelessness is one of the most crucial factors in the development of a serious suicidal wish.  Because of your twisted thinking, you see yourself in a trap from which there seems to be no escape.  You jump to the conclusion that your problems are insoluble.  Because your suffering feels unbearable and appears unending, you may erroneously conclude that suicide is your only way of escape.  If you have had such thoughts in the past, or if you are seriously thinking this way at present, let me state the message of this chapter loud and clear: You are Wrong in Your Belief That Suicide Is the Only Solution or the Best Solution to Your Problem.  Let me repeat that.  You are Wrong!  When you think that you are trapped and hopeless, your thinking is illogical, distorted, and skewed.  No matter how thoroughly you have convinced yourself, and even if you get other people to agree with you, you are just plain mistaken in your belief that it sis ever advisable to commit suicide because of depressive illness." (Burns, H. David "Feeling Good, the New Mood Therapy, p. 385).

I too want to echo the words of Dr. David Burns in his bold proclamation that suicide is not the answer!  I have personally experienced both ends of the spectrum and I too can tell you that suicide is not the answer.  As I sat in my bedroom sobbing after my encounter with my emotionally distraught son, I recalled that dark and forlorn night when I almost completely gave up hope. My personal struggle in my fight for life became a very poignant reminder for me as I thought about what might have been if I had made a different choice that night.  I had never really gained such a meaningful sense of gratitude for my choice to live, and to continue to fight my battle, until I saw how profoundly my son would have been affected, had I given up hope. I suddenly was overwhelmed with gratitude for the small glimmer of light that I had left within me that night which allowed me to choose LIFE!  How grateful I am for my knowledge of a Savior who knows and understands my personal trials.  I'm grateful for the blessing that I have had in finding treatment that has been working for me.  I am grateful that my kids still have their mom and that my husband still has his wife.

In Mosiah 18:8-9 we are taught that we should be willing to bear one another's burdens, mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort  and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places.

It seems to me that many times when we obtain even a glimpse of commonality with other's in life's adversities, that we are better able and more compelled to do what we are taught in Mosiah - bear one another burdens, mourn with those that mourn, comfort those in need of comfort and stand as a witnesses of God.

This was my experience when I saw just a glimpse of the devastating affects that suicide can have on those left to mourn.  I felt even more of a fervent desire to reach out to those whom are struggling with depression.  I know and I understand the depth of anguish that wreaks havoc on depression sufferer's.  I know the extreme hopelessness that can drive depressed individuals to believe that suicide is a possible solution to end their suffering.  I made my decision that suicide is not the answer, but it wasn't until I saw my son's deep emotional reaction to the thought of losing one of his parents, that I gained a better understanding of the immense impact suicide can have on family and loved ones.

I sat contemplating my new found gratitude for life and for the blessings that crossed my path which allowed for me a greater capability to choose to continue my mortal journey.  As I absorbed this new personal realization I also considered other individuals and families who had been in similar circumstances, but yet their outcome was one of tragedy.  I yearned to make a difference however small it may be, in preventing suicide.  My heart ached as I thought of individuals who became so hopeless that suicide became their reality.  I was filled with extreme sorrow as I thought of those husbands, wives, children, parents, and siblings who are left to cope with the indescribable emotional anguish as they mourn over their loss, and attempt to find understanding in the tragedy.  I longed to be able to find a way to make a difference in the lives of those dealing with mental disorders, in order to help prevent suicide.

Many questions ran through my mind as I attempted to sort through my thoughts and emotions.  I analyzed many aspects of dealing with and treating depression.  Could these suicide victims may not have been financially able to receive treatment?  Was their treatment not working effectively?  Were they too embarrassed to seek treatment?  Were they worried about appearing weak, or maybe they didn't know what exactly was causing them to feel this way, so their world seemed like never ending hopelessness and despair?  Many times we don't know the answers to these questions.  So how can I help?

I've decided that for now the best way that I can help is by sharing my experience with others.  Although it's not easy, I want to let people know what I've learned and gained from my personal struggle with clinical depression.  I hope to help others understand that it's okay to talk about depression, and for those suffering with clinical depression, it's important to receive proper treatment.  For the family members and loved ones who are dealing with the affects and devastation of suicide, please know that my heart goes out to you and I pray that you will find a measure of peace and comfort as you search for emotional healing and understanding. If you are currently struggling with feelings of hopelessness, please hang on, seek out treatment, and know that you are not alone in your journey.


  1. Very beautifully written. You are an amazing gifted and talented woman who has so much to offer to those who are in pain. Keep up your writing. I know there are many who will join your fight against this heartbreaking disease.
    Thank you!

  2. Thank you for your willingness to share your experiences - I personally know how difficult it can be to open yourself up and talk about it. I too am grateful that I did not yield in the past to those dark thoughts of worthlessness.

    I have dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts off and on since I was a teenager. For so many years I did not recognize them for what they were - depression. It was only this past year, at the age of 45, that it became so bad I reached out for help.

    One very important thing which I clung to and saved me are the words found in Alma 34:34 "...that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world."

    I certainly did not want to live in that state of mind for eternity!! This life was bad enough, and I could not fathom an eternity of living like that.

    How surprised I have been to discover there are many people in my life who also deal with depression. People I would never have guessed would remotely understand. Please keep writing, and I for one will keep reading!!

  3. Beautiful Airs...Thank you for being willing to open up and share your very most personal experiences. I know because of your willingness to do so, you will be a light and help to many who are going through the same hardships.
    Your a great sister to me and I'm very grateful I have you in my life. I love you.

  4. I am in the middle of this right now. Your words are soothing to my spirit.

  5. Airs, I am so proud of you and feel blessed to have you in my life. It takes a lot of courage to share these experiences and by doing so you are helping those going through this trial but also helping those who don't understand it. I love you so much!

  6. Linda,
    Thank you for your kind comments! I appreciate your encouragement!

  7. Rebecca,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm glad you've been able to reach out and get help. There are many who are sharing the same struggles and I am always grateful to know I'm not alone. Thanks for your faith and kindness!

  8. Todd,
    Don't give up! There are others who understand how you feel and there is hope for brighter days ahead. Keep fighting your battle and know that you are not alone!

  9. Ang,

    Thanks for all you do! I love ya!

  10. Aleese,
    Thanks for all you do! I love ya!