The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Depression affects families

A strange feeling overtakes you. You are helpless to avoid it, as it has become a part of your life.

The feelings of deep depression and utter despair overwhelm you and then the glint of the razor blade catches your eye.

Depression has become a major issue in today’s hectic and often turbulent society.

Teen depression especially is on the rise.

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I would know about this firsthand. My younger brother, Andy, has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He experiences extreme highs and lows. His life has become a living rollercoaster, but one that is now becoming more stabilized each day.

But the journey to that diagnosis has been a very rocky one.

Society turns its back on those who show the slightest signs of weakness, and for a teenager in high school, that can have deadly consequences.

Andy had his first episode four years ago one chilly November night.

After my parents, sister and I had all gone to sleep, he wrote several letters of goodbye to various relatives and friends and then calmly left the house. Andy headed for the nearby park where he proceeded to slash his wrists, and then he laid down on the bench to die.

Only he didn’t. By a higher power, Andy survived the suicide attempt.

In fact, he survived four more attempts, including overdosing on pills, slashing his wrists and legs and smashing our mom’s car into a tree at a high speed.

You expect people to be here forever and, in the blink of an eye, they can disappear.

My dad told me that after the last attempt, he and my mom had seen Andy being wheeled into the hospital and he honestly didn’t have much recollection of what had occurred. In fact, my dad told me Andy had told them that everything was fine.

I still believe to this day the individual who attempted these acts wasn’t my brother, but instead, the monster that was lurking inside him; the depression that was consuming his every thought.

This is true for all people who suffer from mental illness. They aren’t themselves when they try to take their lives.

Our family is one that is full of love and compassion, and our parents have always supported our decisions – but even that couldn’t rescue Andy from feeling like he was a burden on the world and that everyone would be better off without him.

Andy returned to high school after each hospital stay on new medications and tried to return to an ordinary life.

But, unfortunately, his peers wouldn’t let it go.

This was the beginning of our family’s realization that society doesn’t want to know about individuals with mental illnesses.

They want to keep pretending that we are all happy and content with our comfortable suburban lives, our perfectly manicured lawns and our 2.5 children.

It’s ironic when I look back and think of it.

You expect people to be here forever and, in the blink of an eye, they can disappear.

That’s when the lies begin.

My family and I began trying to cover up the depression and episodes in an attempt to have Andy return to a normal teenage life.

The result, when the truth finally came out, was that he became ostracized from society, his former friends now turning their backs on him because he was, as they called him, “crazy.”

They even went so far as to make fun of his suicide attempts in front of all his peers at school. Notes were written, gestures of slashing were shown in the hallways and countless other little forms of terror were subjected on my brother.

Now I don’t have a doctorate in psychology, but I still know you don’t make fun of a depressed person.

I still hold deep animosity towards those individuals, which is likely to stay with me for the rest of my life.

After countless hours of professional counseling, attending the best hospitals in Wisconsin and the strong unity that our family has, Andy is doing fine, living day by day.

He even braved it out and held presentations about depression and his personal story.

But many teenagers aren’t that lucky. The days become darker and more unbearable and the only thing that you can think of is ending the pain.

Depression exists in individuals of any and all ages. It’s no wonder why most of them become worse off rather than better.

Members in our society attempt to pretend this epidemic isn’t occurring in their neighborhoods. They shun, avoid or look down upon people who have depression.

People seem to sympathize with you if you have AIDS or cancer, but they seem to blame the individual or family if they have a mental illness.

Now I’m not saying all people think this way. I have learned how closely a family can pull together and also who my real friends truly are after something of this magnitude.

What I am saying is open your mind and your heart to those who are hurting. Don’t consider someone to be crazy because they have a mental illness.

To those of us who are fortunate enough to lead normal lives, we see the joys in everyday life. But to those who have clinical depression, they see their failures and the disappointments in their lives.

They stand on the precipice of a black void, waiting to consume them. Will you help pull them back?

Werlein is a junior print journalism major and a copy editor of The Spectator.

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Depression affects families