Imagine sitting at a dinner party, making polite chatter with the guests at the round table, sipping fine wine with your dinner, wondering if they’ll be serving chicken or pork. People talk about their day, current events. Then one guest at the table says clearly, and very slowly, “well, I pulled the car into the garage today and sat in there with it running for 90 minutes trying to kill myself.”
Little jolting, eh? That’s the personal story Julie K. Hersh shared withÂ a group of CONTACT supporters gathered at the Ritz Carlton early this morning to mark World Suicide Prevention Day. Julie is the author ofÂ Struck by Living: From Depression to Hope, a Dallas writer, mother and friend. We met in 2003 in a writing class I took as I embarked upon the changes in my life brought on by an empty nest. We bonded over our mutual love of words. Her book was conceived in the class and published last April. CONTACT is a Dallas organization of local volunteers and mental health experts who try their hardest to prevent suicide. One in five people in this country suffer from depression, says Dr.Madhukar H. Trivedi, Professor of Psychiatry and Betty Jo Hay Distinguished Chair in Mental Health, plus Chief, Division ofÂ Mood Disorders at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and my table-mate. (Typing in all those titles gives me depression!) He told me that UT is the center now of a tremendous amount of research into the brain and what it does, how it reacts to anti-depressant meds. Dr. Trivedi said they are just learning that the brain can actually re-generate cells, or neurons, basically replenish. And shocker — electro convulsive therapy (ECT) has an 80% efficacy in treating depression — a higher rate even than anti-depressants. ECT has been given a bad rap by the media, said Julie — recall One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest? — but it was one thing that helped her on the road to recovery.
Julie is bravely sharing her success in battling depression so she can help lift others out of the abyss.
“You want to commit suicide because you think you are a complete burden to the world,” she said. “Through my research, I learned how very devastating suicide is for those who are left behind. Knowing that has made me realize that even if I live my life as a complete blob, it’s far better to be here and be alive for my loved ones, than the alternative.”