Toronto Mike

The Stigma of Mental Illness and Clinical Depression


I don't suffer from clinical depression.  Because I don't suffer from clinical depression, I can't imagine what it would feel like.  There is clinical depression in my family, however, and I've seen loved ones suffering, so I'm naturally sympathetic to those who carry this weight.

I've heard clinical depression described as a debilitating black cloud that can't be shaken.  We're not talking the blues here, or environmental depression following the loss of a job or loved one or the demise of a relationship or a blow to your dreams and aspirations, we're talking about mental illness.

There's a stigma associated with clinical depression that sincerely irks me.  I recently wrote about Dani Stover, former producer of the Dean Blundell Show on 102.1 The Edge.  She opened up about her battles with clinical depression.

The reason I feel the need to be open about this condition is because, with clinical depression comes a lot of stigma. And there's no need for it. One in five people suffer from some sort of depression. And I'm not talking about occasional sadness or periods of feeling distressed or miserable. I'm talking about feeling day-to-day sadness, anxiety, pessimism and helplessness.

One in five is a lot of people. Lately I've been wrestling with a domain name squatter, reseller agent and registrar over the ownership of  Throughout this ordeal, Martin's naturally been on my mind.  It was only last July when Martin took his own life.  Martin quietly struggled with clinical depression and came to the conclusion he was better off dead.  That's a jolting conclusion from someone so beloved and talented.

Just this weekend, another public figure passed away far too young.  Eric Tunney was a talented comedian, who according to the Windsor Star, had been deeply depressed.

He began as a teenage comic in Windsor, Ont., performed in Toronto clubs and wound up in Los Angeles as a writer for the Fox Network.
But after his career bottomed out and his marriage failed, he returned to Windsor, doing the occasional show and working briefly as a telemarketer.
On Sunday, the 45-year-old was found dead in his Windsor apartment. Friends say he has suffered from deep depression the last couple of years.
"We were all really worried about him," said longtime friend Kelly Hoppe of Windsor.

There's no confirmation that Eric took his own life.  Windsor police haven't disclosed that detail, but even before that Windsor Star article was published, I had emails from people purporting to have known him and anonymous comments left on this blog claiming Eric had commit suicide.

There's still an unfortunate stigma associated with mental illness and the resulting suicide.  I've been receiving several anonymous messages via my contact form and unsigned comments on my entry about Eric's death that chastise me for "inaccurately" reporting Eric killed himself.  The implication is that suicide as a cause of death tarnishes Eric's legacy and somehow detracts from the life he lived.  I have a serious problem with that.

Eric Tunney died at 45 years old.  To me, whether he died at his own hand or of natural causes changes nothing.  It bothers me that the mere suggestion that Eric may have chosen to take his own life is suggested to add to the grief and anger currently afflicting Eric's loved ones.

It all comes back to the stigma of mental illness, and it's time we get over it.  20% of us suffer from depression.  Dani suffers, Martin suffered and Eric suffered.  If we talk about it and stop treating it like a personal defect or character flaw, we can reduce the stigma and make it easier for those like Dani and Martin and Eric to get the help they need.

To everyone who has lost a loved one to this disease, my sincere condolences.  To those living with depression, I want you to know there's no shame in talking about it.  You're not alone.

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