Help is Available

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By: Brent Runyon
Published: 10/15/10

The recent grouping of suicides in Falmouth has left me looking for answers. Why is this happening? Why now? Why are people in town taking their own lives rather than seeking help?

In thinking about it, I remembered my own long and tortured journey from being a suicidal teenager to the present day.

When I was 14 years old, I tried to kill myself by setting myself on fire. I survived, barely, but my body is still covered in scars, an indelible reminder of that attempt.

Related Content

A community forum, "Coping with Depression and Suicide: the Role of the Community" will be held at the Falmouth Public Library on Oct. 18 from 6 to 7:30 PM.

  • Suicide Attempt Adds to Growing Stat (Falmouth Enterprise, Sept. 21, 2010)
  • From 2004-2008, there have been a number of suicides and attempts on the Upper Cape:
  • In Falmouth, there were 10 suicides and 302 self-inflicted injuries.
  • In Mashpee, there were five suicides and 97 injuries.
  • In Bourne, there were seven suicides and 187 injuries.
  • In Sandwich, there were five suicides and 153 injuries.

 

After I grew up and moved here to Falmouth in 1999, I met a local writer and public radio producer named Christina Egloff, who encouraged me to write a book about my experiences, and we collaborated on the project over several years.

When “The Burn Journals” was published in 2004, there was a fair amount of attention. I was interviewed by the local newspapers, by People magazine, and on television on “The Jane Pauley Show.”

The weirdest moment came during “The Jane Pauley Show” taping.

They sent a camera crew here to Falmouth, and my parents and brother flew in, too. We spent a day being filmed walking on beaches, kayaking, and talking to the camera about our feelings. It was a long day, one that I don’t think I ever want to experience again.

Then it came time for me to go to New York to film the studio portion of the show. I was so nervous, more nervous than I have been about anything. I sat in the green room and reviewed a series of questions they gave me beforehand.

I tried to memorize my answers, which I’d previously given to a producer off the cuff. I just wanted everything to be perfect.

But when I finally walked out onto the stage and sat down next to Ms. Pauley in an uncomfortable chair, she reached over and grabbed onto my hand with a fierce and powerful grip.

She stared into my eyes and said, “I’m not letting go of your hand until you promise to go into therapy.”

I said I would, mostly because I didn’t want to be dragging Jane Pauley around with me for the rest of my life.

The interview was a blur. The main thing I remember was gripping the edges of the chair like I was on a roller coaster, which I guess I kind of was.

Symptoms of depression include a wide range of changes in a person’s normal routine, including a loss of energy, eating or sleeping too much or too little, suicidal thinking, and a loss of interest in enjoyable activities for more than two weeks.

 

Major life changes can trigger depression. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job or a home, can all trigger feelings of helplessness and despair, which can result in depression.

Several organizations are available for those struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts:

  • Samaritans of Cape Cod, 508-548-8900
  • Gosnold of Cape Cod, 1-800-444-1554
  • Cape Cod Human Services, 508-790-3433
  • Falmouth Human Services, 508-548-0533 (no fees)
  • Department of Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 508-778-4627 or 800-322-1356

 

When I got home, I got the number of a local psychiatrist who happened to get her hair cut at the same place my wife did.

Just picking up the phone and calling her was far more difficult than I thought it would be. I felt like I was making the final ascent to Everest with 2,000 pounds of granite on my back.

But, partially, because I had promised Ms. Pauley but mostly because I knew I really should, I called the doctor, and went to see her. It was a good thing I did, because, soon after, I developed another pretty severe case of depression.

That winter, I started eating too much, and drinking too much, and sleeping all the time, but never feeling rested. I was moody, and quick to anger, and generally just wanted to be by myself all the time.

I even felt like killing myself again, but I didn’t, and I didn’t try. Instead, I got help and got better, which was a lot easier in the long run.

 

Eventually, I recovered from my depression, and went on to write two more books with Ms. Egloff and became a reporter for the Enterprise.

The truth is that asking for help can seem harder than wasting away into depression. But depression is treatable, and help is out there, easy to find and readily available.

I’m still not sure what took me so long to ask for help, but I’m glad I finally did. It shouldn’t have taken the firm grip of a talk show host to do it.

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