The new Facebook challenge is the Mrs. Doubtfire “Helloooo” face for suicide prevention. The person challenged recreates this scene from Mrs. Doubtfire (see below) and tags three friends. Unlike the ALS challenge, there is no monetary penalty attached, but donations would, I’m sure, be gladly accepted.
The articles I’ve seen that promote this challenge don’t seem to spell out how this is connected to suicide or depression, other than the obvious link to Robin Williams. That’s why I’m writing to you today. You may not recognize the face of depression because those who suffer often learn to smile through the pain. We wear a mask.
When my husband committed suicide in 1998, I found a therapist to talk to. I had actually scheduled the appointment before the death happened because I was very troubled about how my life was unfolding. I’d never met this wonderful woman before, and I sat on her couch and spilled out the story of how his bipolar disorder affected my life, the events that led up to his suicide, and finding him lifeless. She didn’t say a word. She just listened. When I stopped, she looked at me and said, “you just spent the last 30 minutes telling me about upsetting things – terrible things… and the smile never left your face.”
Mrs. Doubtfire hid her “true face” with icing so the visitor wouldn’t see the truth. People who suffer from depression do that too. Smiles are effective masks. Some people use false bravado and angry attitudes to hide the sadness.
Earlier this year I had a very difficult period of time. The issues that were troubling me were not something I felt comfortable sharing with anyone else. In addition to my own troubles, real and imagined, my profession brings with it the troubles of others. All of those things added together had me feeling like a failure as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a professional, a volunteer, and a person in general. Despite it all, I went out to a local festival and tried to have fun while I was there. I talked with people, I smiled, and then I went home and crawled back into my dark cave. I posted something vague about my dark mood on Facebook, and a dear friend replied that she was concerned. She had just seen me and had no idea that anything was wrong. My mask was on. She could not see the pain.
This is the face of depression:
Currently, there is too much stigma attached to mental health issues for a campaign asking those suffering from depression to share their faces with the world so others suffering can know they are in good company. Until then, be kind to those around you. Everyone you encounter is fighting a battle you know nothing about.