Originally published in the Austin American Statesman on August 17, 2014
By Sara Hickman, 2014 Austin NAMIAustin Honorary Walk Chair
On Monday, Robin Williams took his own life and during my shock it woke me up. It woke me up out of my silence to announce: I am a survivor of an attempted suicide. I am tired of hiding, so I want to stop the stigma of depression right now. Sharing is important because my staying silent serves no one. Speaking out about it could create change. I want people to understand that severe depression is the loneliest feeling in the world. Countless people may love you, but depression sneaks up and hurls you further away from yourself, farther from reality. It flings you toward the only thing that seems like a rational answer (which it is not): to remove yourself from this world.
It’s not selfishness that leads anyone to suicide. Trust me. Anyone who has attempted it or gone through with it does not want to hurt anyone else. Many times, a person suffering from this confusing and debilitating disease simply wants to leave because he or she feels like a burden to this world, or just wants the pain to stop. There is nothing known as a “future” when one is caught up in the darkest of places. The pain is so intense and all-consuming, it’s difficult for people who do not suffer from depression to understand its powerful grip.
Depression is not a choice. People suffering from depression need genuine patience, love and gentle support. Millions of people work, live, play, love and manage to do all we do while living with depression. We learn to let people in, to ask for help, to allow ourselves to cry but, also, to know suicide isn’t an option. And to anyone who judges others with this condition: why not educate yourselves? Learn what depression is and become a positive support. It’s a real illness that deserves real compassion.
I am proud to be the Honorary Chair of this year’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Walk here in Austin on Saturday, September 27. NAMI Austin’s mission is to improve the lives of people affected by depression and mental illness by providing support, education and advocacy through a grassroots network. They are serious about combating stigma through free educational programs for individuals, families and friends suffering right now.
If you’re depressed, please talk to someone or visit NAMIAustin.org. If you (or someone you know) are feeling suicidal, call 1-800-273-TALK or 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish-speaking callers. If you’re a loved one, don’t be afraid to reach out and be a lifeline for someone fighting this sinister condition. Ask, “Do you want me to listen?”, “Is something wrong?” or simply, “Do you need help?” Your simple words are a powerful road to change.
Robin led a courageous life so his death hit all of us like a train. God bless him, and people all over the world, who smile and bring happiness while privately struggling. Even with his shining soul, Robin’s depression took its toll. So I want to emphasize: in no way was this action Robin’s “fault.” We cannot understand his sorrows. But we can continue to love him for his extraordinary life, a life that challenges us, forever, to speak out and erase the stigma called depression.
About Sara Hickman
Sara Hickman has garnered recognition as a captivating singer/songwriter, vocalist and musician, with artists such as Shawn Colvin, the Flatlanders, Robert Earl Keen, Willie Nelson and many others covering her songs. On her Kirtland Records debut release Shine, Hickman delivers another memorable collection of 10 songs that will take the listener on an intense journey destined to evoke a broad spectrum of emotions.
Since she started performing at the age of seven, Hickman has been embraced by both followers and critics. The Associated Press proclaims, “Seek out her albums and club shows for her melodic sense, excellent guitar playing, rich voice and mix of sunny optimism with heartache.” Hickman’s home state of Texas loves her too, naming her the 2010-2011 “Official State Musician of Texas,” joining luminaries such as Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett. A guest performer on at least 25 albums by other recording artists, Hickman has toured with Billy Bragg, Dan Fogelberg and Nanci Griffith, and has opened for other artists including the Decemberists, John Hiatt and Lucinda Williams.