On depression and the question “why”

Senior print editor Gillian Bressie reflects on common misconceptions about mental health. 

By Gillian Bressie 

The thing people always want to know when it comes to sadness, depression or suicide is why. What happened that prompted your feeling this way? Who said what, or who did what, or what did you do that made you want to end your life? This is a question I’m all too familiar with and it’s a question I hate more than anything. In my experience, it’s not always so simplistic and if it were, I may not even have a problem at all.

The scariest sadness I’ve felt isn’t the “my friend and I are in a fight and it’s upsetting me” kind of sadness; it’s the inexplicable, overshadowing unhappiness that leaves you sobbing when even you can’t explain why. It’s a pent up overwhelmed-ness with life that in an inability to cope, some turn to self harm to relieve.

When you find yourself sobbing in your room for what seems to be no reason, asking yourself why seems like the natural next step. However in searching for such a simplistic explanation, I personally have been dismayed to realize that such complex emotions can rarely pared down to one reason why. This inability to explain your own emotions can compound the problem, leaving you anxious, uncertain and lost.

The bottom line is, in cases of depression of suicide, there is rarely a simplistic explanation. Every person experiences different triggers and different experiences in their own way, but it is oversimplified to assume that that can all come down to one event, encounter, or explanation.

If you’ve heard of instances of depression or suicidal ideation and your first instinct is to search for justification, you’re not alone. It’s a question asked by many nurses, psychotherapists, and counselors unaware of its potential stress. So if you have asked or wondered why, dont feel bad, just be cognizant of the fact that the person themselves may not even know why and that could be the source of their stress.

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