It is with a heavy heart that I write this today. The world of mental illness, of depression and suicide is brought close to home once again. My friend called to tell me that she just got a call that her nephew, 27 years old, shot himself. I went to her house to be with her since she was, of course, completely in shock. An hour later she got the call that he had died in the hospital. It doesn’t seem right to tell the details of the day’s events here. What matters though are the major themes that run throughout this tragedy.

My friend kept saying that this wasn’t supposed to happen to them; that they were like The Cleavers. This kind of act changes a family forever. They will never be as they once were. Family gatherings will forever be different. Who each of them is in the world will forever be changed (Navigating the Changes of Self).

His family is left with the unanswered question, “What happened?” No one in his family was aware of the extent of his depression. No one was conscious that he was seriously contemplating suicide. He’d never exhibited any behavior they thought was cause for urgency. Sure, he was quiet but he always was. Yeah, he was upset over a recent breakup but that’s understandable. Such an extreme and irreversible action wasn’t even on the radar for this young man’s family.

How does a family know when their loved one is sad within a healthy range or hopelessly depressed and at risk of committing suicide? One way is to look at symptoms as a cluster. (How To Spot Clinical Depression) An untrained family member or friend may not even think that certain symptoms are connected in any way. And if we are fortunate enough to accurately identify the issue, what do we do? (10 Tips For Helping A Friend With A Mental Health Concern)

There is no blame to be assigned, as mental illness and its stigma are the real culprits here. However, grief may give way to hope when education around depression and suicide lengthens the life of someone else.