On Suicide and Ignorance

Georgia NeSmith
7 min readSep 9, 2021

Clinical depression, contrary to popular beliefs, is far more than a case of “the sads.”

My son-in-law Erik died by suicide in June 2010.

One of the first reactions I encountered upon telling people I knew was “How selfish!” He had left behind 7 children of his own (three from his first marriage, and four from his marriage to my daughter, and one stepson who regarded him as a second father). And of course he also left my daughter to mourn him while at the same time she had to console and comfort her five children, the majority very young, ages 3–14, and the oldest, 19.

But as a suicide survivor in both senses — surviving my own attempts, and living on after someone close to me died from suicide — calling it a selfish act is one of the most ignorant, insensitive, and SELFISH things you can say to a survivor.

Your brain tells you lies.

You don’t understand. You don’t get it. When you are clinically depressed, your brain LIES to you. You actually believe that the world, including your loved ones, would be better without you in it.

It doesn’t matter how illogical that is, such as in the case of Robin Williams, who gave so much of himself to the world through his acting and his comedy.

Lies generally aren’t logical.

Yes, people who take their own lives are self-absorbed. But that is the nature of the disease of depression. Your entire life is filled with dark thoughts, and there seems to be no way to get away from them.

William Styron, one of the major authors of fiction in the 20th century, wrote eloquently about his own experiences with long term clinical depression. If you are trying to understand a depressed friend (or yourself) and you only have time for one book, skip the clinical discussions. Read Styron’s Darkness Visible: a Memoir of

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Georgia NeSmith

Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.