09/29/2016 10:19 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2017

Real Talk: Why We Need To Continue The Conversation About Depression

Each year, more than 40,000 people will take their lives in the United States. That's an average of 117 individuals per day. Furthermore, it's estimated that more than 80 percent of people who are suffering from depression are not receiving treatment.

The stigma surrounding both suicide and depression is astounding. According to Healthline, depression is a complex disease that affects 1 in 10 Americans and although it can occur for a variety of reasons, the cause of the disease remains unknown.

Despite these figures, many will read these statistics and think nothing of it.

The development of depression is something that is out of our control. No one is immune to this disease. It can inflict anyone, anywhere, at any point in life.

Although these are the facts, the stigma remains and continues to fuel the issue. My question is why? Why should we feel embarrassed in admitting that we are depressed and need help? Because maybe, if we could get rid of that stigma, those 40 thousand lost lives each year could be saved.

At this point in my life, I am comfortable enough to admit that I am someone who has been plagued with depression throughout my life. Living with this has helped me learn to accept the fact that I need to take extra steps to take care of my mental health, and that when it does start to take over I can speak up and seek help.

However, each and every one of us are different and just because I've learned to cope doesn't mean others have. Unfortunately, this statement was catapulted directly into my face when I learned that my cousin struggled with depression.

This year, on September 24, 2016, I received a phone call that shattered my family. My sweet, loving and talented cousin had been struggling and he felt the only way to fix it was to take his own life.

The shock and pain reverberated through my family up and down California, making its way across the country where it settled on the East Coast.

When a person takes his/her life, family and friends will commonly say that they had no idea that they had been struggling with depression that badly. And although those words may sound like a cliché, they're said because it's true.

Unfortunately suicide is something that is a part of our society, but the thought of it ever happening to your own loved one is unfathomable.

Trying to process it is a long and difficult journey and I don't think it's something that we can ever truly understand.

When a suicide occurs, some will whisper that the person was selfish for carrying out this act. It's important to understand, however, that the burden and pain that the person felt was so intense that death seemed liked the better option. I repeat, they believed death was the BETTER OPTION.

Choosing to end your own life is of course never the right option but for someone to feel that damaged and distressed, the empathy for them should only skyrocket.

The stigma around depression and suicide needs to end now. Those who are in need of help should not have to feel weak or embarrassed just by asking for it.

Let's start the conversation and banish the stigma for good.

If you, a friend, or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, please contact the 24-hour national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and you will be connected with a trained counselor at a crisis center in your area.

J.C., please know that you are so loved and missed; rest in peace.