Depression, suicide all around us

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A man who has battled depression for 16 years calls it the closest thing to being death while still being conscious.

He doesn't want his name or face used, but he wants to share the dark place that people all around us can be.  He has contemplated suicide, something that is shockingly common.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. On Tuesday alone, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office had responded to eight calls of suicide or attempted suicide by 4 p.m.

"At first you just kind of flirt with the idea, and the more you sort of deal with depression and pain, the more appealing it gets," he said. "I've suffered with it since I was 11, so, at this point, it's almost preferable in my mind -- even sort of logical or rational to a sense -- to just say I'd rather just be done with it."

He cuts himself, which he says helps.

"It literally feels like I bleed the pain out," he said. "After I do it, the tension sort of subsides, anxiety subsides; even the depression subsides."

But it creeps back.

He says you can only bottle up the pain or anger for so long before you erupt, which is why a support system is so important.

"If you don't have anyone to vent to or talk to, then you have no choice really but to keep it inside. And the longer it's inside, the longer it stews, the more it's sort of corrupting you, the more it's kind of eroding you from the inside out, until eventually there's nothing left, there's no will to live. One day you wake up and there's no reason for you to be here anymore."

The news of superstar Robin Williams' committing suicide spread like wildfire Monday evening.  Around the same time, Jacksonville police say a 26-year old woman shot herself in the head at the Gate gas station on Hendricks Avenue. It's one of many similar calls the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office gets every day.

Gloria Vinson used to answer phones for the Suicide Prevention Center in 20 years ago. In September, her husband killed himself.

"He was my life so, it's been a struggle," said Gloria Vinson of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "I always knew of his depression. It was not a secret to me, but we always worked through it. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would go to this extreme. And that's what we want to educate people. We want people to look out for things before they get that far."

The cutter who shared his story with News4Jax understands.

"Whenever I feel that bad I choose not to do it, primarily because it's sort of me giving the middle finger to depression," he said. "Even if I suffer the rest of my life, you're not going to beat me in this one aspect."

He told us that most people voice their intentions before they commit suicide. He says if you know someone suffering from depression, take it seriously, but don't be judgmental.

"Don't necessarily pretend to have all the answers when you don't. The best thing you can do is really just listen to what they're going through and try to be as comforting and supportive as you can. Keep an eye on them as much as you can and just try to make sure they get help. And if it's serious enough, you might need to interfere."

Vinson also says it's important to make people battling depression realize they exist for a reason and their lives are worth living. If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. They can connect you with local counselors.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has several events coming up where people can get involved:

  • Thursday - Dinner at Gene's Seafood at 1571 University Blvd. W. Proceeds benefit the foundation.
  • Sept. 10, 7 p.m. - "Light a Candle to Remember" at Friendship Fountain
  • Oct. 11, 8:30 a.m. - "Out of Darkness" community walk at the Jacksonville Landing.

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