|NOTE: This blog was previously published under the [JESSE 2.0] blog at http://jessetwopointoh.blogspot.com but has been absorbed into Jesse's main blog for archival purposes. You can read all Jesse 2.0 entries here.|
"Our family never intended to conceal the circumstances surrounding Matt's death in an effort to deceive the public, but rather to allow us to grieve privately, as well as, protect the many young children that have been affected by this tragedy. Depression is an extremely widespread, yet treatable, condition. Receiving education regarding the signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation is essential. Those who know of, or may need help themselves, need to seek treatment or call the "National Suicide Prevention Lifeline" at (800) 273-TALK (8255)."
I also received a phone call of thanks today from a weather enthusiast friend who read this post and decided to seek help. All in all I'm glad I had the courage to write this!
Someone dear to the meteorological community was lost this May... and the whole world found out about Matt Hughes' death last week on Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers." In fact Monday morning that topic Dominated (pun intended) internet searches. Combined, two separate phrases "how did matt hughes die" and "matt hughes storm chaser death" were by far the #1 searched topic on Google Trends.
Why? We fellow chasers knew almost immediately in May from hobby chat boards online. But the information about how he passed away was not mentioned then, only notes that it was "not chasing-related" and only a handful knew before Monday, when TMZ and others released the truth: Matt committed suicide. This news hit me hard, and not just because I am a fellow storm chaser.
(The tribute image above is from TheStormReport.com which has information on a Memorial Fund for Matt's two sons).
First, I was disappointed in the way that Discovery Channel handled the situation. They had three episodes featuring Matt before their tribute last week. I realize that they desire to do things in chronological order, but to not even mention Matt's passing during the first three episodes made those of us who knew the situation wonder if they were ever going to address it. And when asked, they didn't answer.
Second, I respect the family's privacy, and realize there may be legal issues, but by trying to hide the truth, I believe Matt's family missed a big opportunity to further the cause of Depression screening and prevention. Instead, they (understandably for privacy concerns) hid the truth and some in the media are now interpreting this as a "cover-up," putting Matt's death in a negative light. As a result, everyone else is scared to talk about it, so we stay quiet.
But I feel too strongly about this topic to remain silent.
As a person who suffered from Depression years ago (in college), I feel I am qualified to speak on the topic. As Mental Health America says a couple of important things: "Clinical depression is a serious medical illness. Clinical depression can lead to suicide. Sometimes people with depression mistakenly believe that the symptoms of depression are a 'normal part of life.'"
The illness is further misinterpreted, or simply not seen, by friends and family who think that depressed people are just "extra sad" because of something that went wrong in their life. Actually, everything could be going perfect for you, but you still feel sad. That's what makes is so odd.
Fortunately, it's treatable. But only if you or those around you recognize the problem. As MHA points out, one way is through screening. Another is simply for your friends and family to be aware of the signs, which they list. Every time that we are unable to catch the signs in time, we need to get the word out about this illness.
I was able to recognize the problem and seek help, which started with psychotherapy. That helped a little. Then I tried a couple different prescription antidepressant drugs, some of which had horrible side effects like paranoia, "brain zaps" (the Internet wasn't around then so you couldn't Google that - it was quite scary) and me forgetting how to spell simple words (not great for English 101).
I finally found one that worked, and had no side effects (Zoloft). I'll never forget the day that I knew it was working. I was overcome with a wave of calmness as I retrieved a Pepsi from the refrigerator at our Beach House (I was there with my parents). I'd like to be a huge proponent of that particular drug, but the truth is that different drugs work for different people. After a year on Zoloft, I discontinued it and was completely recovered.
The reason the drugs work is simple -- depression is caused by an imbalance of a brain chemical called serotonin. I also happen to believe that most, if not all aberrant behavior is caused by brain chemical imbalances and hope that one day we may be able to rid the world of much crime and unrest via psychotropic drugs like anti-depressants.