This past Tuesday I attended a visitation for a 14 year old boy, the son of a couple whom I've known for 25 years. By all accounts he was a wonderful person: intelligent, active in martial arts and music, and innovative. His mother described him thus: "...you would have heard about him in 10 years as the creator of the car-mounted spud turret that targets red light runners, or the ice-melting laser apron bumper accessory, and the clean grenade. I was really looking forward to the clean grenade: pull the pin, throw it in the teenager's room that needs it most, shut the door, and wait until the house stops shaking."
Despite such promise he had depression issues, which ultimately led him to kill himself in his bedroom while his unsuspecting family slept. You hear so many stories of this happening but never expect it to happen to you or to someone you know.
Depression (and mental illness in general) is one of today's biggest taboos along with death, sex, and personal health issues. Nobody wants to talk about it even though it's necessary. It's "inappropriate" or "too embarrassing". Only when a tragic event occurs do many people acknowledge its existence. Then it fades into the background until the next time.
I am no stranger to mental illness. My first husband's emotional and sexual abuse caused me to have a nervous breakdown, for which I needed therapy. After my daughter was born I had postpartum depression that lasted over a year. To this day I constantly struggle against my own inherent negativity.
There is hope: many schools, hospitals, and community organizations now have outreach programs designed to identify and help those who need it most. The venerable Kids Help Phone has existed since I was a youngster. However we still have a long way to go. For Hilton Lee, as well as all others who are gone or who continue to struggle in the dark, we need to talk about it.