We all desire a sense of belonging. This is a core raison d'être of communities, where members unite because of a common interest or idea, whether in personal relationships, professional affiliations, or just life in general.
Look at what happened after Robin Williams' death: Droves of people came together, many who had little to no connection to him, to share their thoughts, questions, and memories. The Internet has become a conduit for spontaneous creation of communities.
For as touching as it is that this kinship self-generated, the talk will die down and reality will set in. We will no longer be talking about suicide and depression, because that wasn't what brought us together. The talent of Robin Williams brought us together. How he died, and the reasons behind it, will quietly fade and we will be left only with the knowledge he is no longer with us. Unfortunately, the reality of depression and suicide will remain.
Our society allows us to talk about depression openly when a celebrity or well-known person's struggle with it is revealed. That same society does not create a welcoming environment for an average person to talk about depression.
Since writing about my depression and thoughts of suicide, I've been involved in many conversations, some even telling me that you can even get fired in some states for having depression. I haven't verified this, but just the fact that someone thinks that true is a problem. Our workplaces are businesses and need to make money, but a compassionate workplace that fosters healthy employees enjoy increased productivity, creation of new ideas, and decreased insurance claims. The people in our workforce are the most important asset we have. We need to treat them better than we treat our computers.
The other problem that exists in our society is that we are discouraged against showing weakness. When we expose our faults, we become vulnerable and as a result, are seen as less trustworthy, less reliable, and less focused. I've seen this in the conversations I've had. Many trust me enough to privately share a personal story but have not opened up publicly. Many of those who do engage in the conversation publicly talk about it in a removed way. Either a parent, friend, or relative experienced depression and/or committed suicide, but that's all we hear. How it affected them, what feeling they carry from it, are still mostly kept hidden.
This is not how we can solve the issue of depression and its commonness. We need to be open to discussing it. Yes, it will be uncomfortable. Yes, it will be painful at times. That's called being vulnerable. Only through this can we open up to give others the chance to know us. Once this happens, the sense of belonging can come to life. It will let us know we are not alone.
There are others in this community who have felt the same feelings, experienced the same thoughts, and have overcome the darkness that they once felt, much like I now talk about. Open yourself up to a sense of belonging. It's already there, you just need to show your vulnerability.
What now? Are you ready to start sharing your story? Start with a fiend, stranger, acquaintance; then form a group to continue the conversation. There are plenty of resources for you, but it starts by you sharing your story.
Have a story about depression that you'd like to share? Email email@example.com, or give us a call at (860) 348-3376, and you can record your story in your own words. Please be sure to include your name and phone number.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.