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Friday, November 3, 2006


I have been thinking about this topic for about a month now and I've been putting it off. Last night before I went to bed, I was reading some articles online about depression in creative people. Here's one article I read. I read Lisa Sampson's interview today at Infuze where she answers a few questions about her depression.

Statistics are really overwhelming. I wonder if anyone even reads them, or pays attention to them? I'm not just talking about depression in creative people I'm talking overall. But I'll probably focus on creative people since I'm one of them.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) says that the cards are stacked against us literary artists. Recent studies show that we're four times as likely to have mood disorders. That's the nice way to say it. I refer to myself in other terms but I don't want to tick you off, so I'll play nice today.

Only three other conditions rank higher on the scale of deaths in America for people 18-65. If a "real" disease was causing it, wouldn't everyone be dumping a bunch of money into it and raising awareness? Probably. But I guess we're too depressed to get out of our jammies and do anything.

This next thing I read makes me want to throw up. Really. It hurts me in places I won't go into here. Someone takes their own life every 18 minutes in America. Wow. Then there's the fact that every minute someone tries. Did you hear me? Every single minute someone in the United States is attempting to kill themselves. Every freaking minute.

Oh, and then this: More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease (7 million), cancer (6 million) and AIDS (200,000) combined. Have you seen all those little pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness? The walks? The AIDS awareness stuff. The heart healthy foods. Reading this, I'm thinking or rather trying to think logically, if more people suffer from depression than those three diseases COMBINED why isn't someone doing something??? Yep. We're all stuck in our jammies again, aren't we?

I'm just one person. I can't change the world. Ha! I can't even get out of my jammies. Am I depressed? Probably. Have I been seen for it? In 1991. Once. I've lived in denial since then because I didn't want to admit that I could be like those in my family with depression. My uncle just hung himself in February and I still can't talk a whole lot about it, but it has been opening my eyes.

One of my characters is an old southern man and he says this to a younger man, "Something's gotta die for others to live."

That line has been haunting me since I wrote it on many, many layers. I know I have to do something about it, I just don't know what. The title for a book keeps swimming in the depths but I keep trying to shove it down; drown it. "I am Suicide."
I hate it. It won't die.

Yeah I laughed at that one too. Ironic, eh?


Heather said...

I had no idea about these statistics. As you said, haunting.
I've been thinking about that line in your book since I read it, too, thinking that death is not supposed to be a part of things. We shouldn't just accept it "as a part of life." No. It's not meant to be. Thinking about how Christ died so that I might live. Someone had to die.
On a lighter note: don't tell my husband about artists being more prone to mood disorders. He thinks I'm crazy. He loves my imagination, my empathy, but he doesn't know how to handle me when I go off the deep end. still, he loves me.

Jennifer Tiszai said...

I think a lot of the funding and research and notarity of disease comes from what celebrities get behind it. Yeah, I've known about those statistics for a long time. The amount of attention a disease gets has no corrolation to the actual number of people it kills.

The only celebrity that has talked about depression has been Brooke Shields and a good portion of that came from her public row with Tom Cruise.

Unfortunately, depression probably carries as much as, if not more than, a stigma as AIDS. Especially in the church where it's considered to be a sign of a lack of faith or character or belief. And yet, unlike AIDS, it's not preventable any more than being diabetic is. It's related more to genetics and brain chemistry than to faith and character.

Michelle Pendergrass said...

I think that's part of what bothers me most, Jen.

Janet Rubin said...

Hi Michelle,
I spent the whole day yesterday researching bipolar stuff for my novel. I found a great site. Reading the forums and personal accounts of people suffering from mental illness was heart-breaking. My dad was bipolar and killed himself in 74 when I was 2. I suppose that's one of the reasons I'm writing on this topic. The more writers I meet, the more I realize that many of us struggle on some level- from light depression to major mental illness. Perhaps, in some of us, sanity is the thing that must die so that creativity can live? Okay, so I really don't know what I'm talking about, but your post was sobering and informative. God bless.

Janet Rubin said...

Hey, Michelle! Thanks for visiting MY blog. I always loved cold stuffing! Here's another one (I don't do this anymore cuz it's icky): in high school, I used to come home and eat cold hotdogs out of the pack while watching Guiding Light. Eww..
You and I are both Decompose readers. Mike is in my crit group.