Learning to speak of depression, suicide

Lorna C. Hale

I know some about depression and suicide; I have attempted three times in my life to commit suicide and have suffered depression for many years. I thought I was alone in the world and had no one to talk to or understand me. I found years later that I am not alone, and neither are you. My upbringing wasn't the best in the world, but it wasn't the worst either. I'm not saying I am an expert, or know how everyone is feeling about these subjects, but I do know about depression and thoughts of suicide and trying to relieve the pain with drugs and alcohol.

We as a people need to know that it is not a bad thing to talk about depression and suicidal thoughts. We also need to understand that others will have these feelings, and it's not just a phase. Or they are trying to get attention. I did not speak to anyone about my depression when I was sober, and when I was drunk no one believed me because I was so drunk. But my thoughts and feelings were true. I just had to sober up and realize that I don't have to face these feelings alone. Believe me, the sooner you cut down on drinking and using drugs to deal with life, the easier it will be. But I am not here to tell you what to do with yourself. I am just saying that once you learn to deal with yourself, life would get so much better for you.

Living in this modern world is a very challenging time for us. Our parents were most likely sent away for school and from what I hear it wasn't all that great. When you got into trouble, you were punished by either getting hit with a ruler, or made to wear a dunce cap. And the way our grandparents were raised is much different. Seeing their children treat their grandchildren that way must be heart-breaking. So we as a young generation are caught between two worlds that are based on different values and ways of teaching and learning. In ourselves we feel the way of our ancestors, but the world wants us to do the exact opposite of what we feel is true and abide by their rules. That is causing conflict in us, and we have no way of showing that anger and frustration. We deal with our problems by numbing the pain with drugs and alcohol. I do not want my child to think that drugs and alcohol are the way to deal with life.

Our parents and grandparents were told not to speak our Native languages. But today, we are trying to get it back, which is really hard to do seeing how everything here is written and spoken in English. So trying to find common grounds on talking about life and the ups and downs of it is just difficult. Our grandparents have a hard time with English, and our parents don't talk about what happened to them unless they are impaired on some sort of substance. We as a new generation need to start speaking our minds and telling our children it's OK to feel depressed, and that sometimes those feelings bring on thoughts of suicide. But we do not have to act on those thoughts. The more we speak our minds and have an understanding person hearing what we have to say can really help us and open more doors into a more sober and healthy lifestyle.

Lorna C. Hale is JASAP coordinator at the Maniilaq Association. This commentary was first published by Alaska Newspapers Inc.'s The Arctic Sounder and is republished here with the author's permission. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail editor(at)alaskadispatch.com.