Powerful Photos Of People Contemplating Suicide Prove Depression Has No Face

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photo of blonde woman smiling

September always feels like a melancholy month to me. When it's over, I'm always happy to be past it once again.

When I woke up this year on October 1st, I felt myself let out a heavy sigh I didn't even know I was carrying around all month.

I felt this way long before I learned that September is now considered National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

But once I found out about this particular campaign to foster awareness and acceptance for people suffering from suicidal ideation and depression, it made perfect sense to me. The leaves are changing. Summer is leaving. Even people who don't live with clinical depression get twinges of nostalgia for the bygone days of June, July, and August.

This past September I spent time not only scrolling through my personal feed on social media apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but also typing in search parameters for one very specific hashtag: #faceofdepression.

Under this hashtag, people who have been affected by depression share images of themselves and their loved ones in an effort to change the way in which we think about depression and the way it "looks".

Seeing these images of others always, always, always, strikes a chord.

Depression is, after all, an invisible disease. You could scroll through my own social media accounts and carefully analyze each photograph for proof of how the malady effects me and still never be able to see it for yourself.

There I am, smiling.

There I am, making a funny face.

There I am, eating with friends... or enthusiastic on the top of a mountain... or with my hands raised triumphantly in the air.

You see me and you see my life, but you don't see my depression.

This may sound glib, but the way a person presents themselves to the world has very little to do with what's actually going on beneath their surface.

When you're depressed, you might felt like a haggard crone or a mere shadow of your former self, but you can hide all of that and go out into the world with a fake smile plastered on your face.

And that's what makes depression so deadly.

That man grinning while kayaking with his girlfriend may choose to end his own life the following week. The sweet pre-teen mugging for his mother's camera may die by suicide that evening.

The fact that depression hides as well as it does is part of what makes it so terrifying.

For me, the images and videos of Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington, taken just days before he died and shared by his wife Talinda as part of her own effort to #MakeChesterProud and say #fuckdepression were among the most striking.

That's not because they are so different from any of the other heart-wrenching photos and stories out there, but because of how aching clear they make it that someone can be smiling and laughing authentically with their family one day — and dead by their own hands the next.

I'm really happy we live in an age and in a country where the conversation about mental illness is evolving.

I believe fewer people feel afraid to come forward when they're struggling now, but that doesn't mean the problem is solved. People still take their own lives due to the horrible monster that is depression.

However, the more time we take to talk about this insidious epidemic, the safer the world can feel to a person who is fighting themselves for their life. It's one of those seemingly small things that can make a larger difference than you'll ever know.

And while September might be over, the battle for people with depression doesn't end when the month changes.

Keep on fighting. We're here and we're listening.

1. The artist in Ukraine smiling with her churros as she contemplated suicide.

"In last days of September I found very important post published by @sherlyn_fitness that was inspired by @selfloveclubb As September is suicide prevention month, I want to add my own voice to this chorus.

There is no huge difference between this happy cheat-meal photo with churros (in Ukraine we usually don't have churros haha) and photos from Los Angeles. However that time I was crushed in pieces. I was broken as entrepreneur with my shop. I was broken as artist with relevance from #newyorkfilmacademy. I was broken as person that I knew for 24 years of my life. I'm truly lucky that my husband was with me all that time — he was looking over my health and thoughts, which probably saved my life. No matter what I continued to post here updates — cause for me it was part of work, important but heavy. That was difficult — reading all these comments about slut and sex wasn't fine when you feel broken. However I continued to smile for publicity.

Times are changing. I fell, I stand up and feel even stronger then before. I've got important experience and opened door to new possibilities. However my smile is the same then I was in step from suicide and hospital.

What I want to tell? You won't fall one time. As I fell this time, I will fall more. But you know what? I've got experience. I know, that if I will stand and fight, this horror will end. And I'll become even stronger. This is my own rule of evolution. Find out your recreation zones. Family, hobby, activities. Especially gym — the more you spend the more you'll get.

This is my #faceofdepression story. I know that my life continues. And I'll try to get each moment of my life."

2. The woman who gets told she must be "fake" because her emotions seem too extreme to others.

"SEPTEMBER IS MY BIRTHDAY MONTH, AND ALSO NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION MONTH. I read this article about suicide and I noticed that it's true that most people don't know if someone else is suicidal. I've had friends who attempted suicide and they mostly look really happy and outgoing on the outside. They always seemed to be someone who makes everyone laugh. Someone who doesn't look depressed at all. I was doubted by people, been called fake when I talk about my depression. People don't trust me. They say it's impossible, you don't look depressed. Does depression really have a face? The answer is no. I could wake up feeling really suicidal and still able to bring a smile to my customers or my co workers...

Is there any trigger to having a suicidal thought? Some people really don't have one. They just couldn't find meaning in life. Some were caused by trauma. There are many more...

It is important for us to pay more attention and show more love towards people around us. Judge less and be more caring. Always ask how are you. Do you need a hug? I'm glad that the people around my workplace always ask me. And never judge me when I cry. Or even tell me that they cry too every single day and it's ok. And even tell me about their depression story. It has been extremely hard for me to make friends especially within a conservative Asian culture. People always think that I'm fake because my emotions are very extreme. I could be really happy over very little things and could be really really sad over very small things too. But I've practiced and learned how to have a strong heart and no doubt that I still cry, I still feel sad and depressed. But I'm able to really think about the people who love me to be the strength for me to keep living in this world...

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Don't give up. Please. If you find that your life is meaningless, if you can't find a reason to live, I wanna tell you that I love you. And I'll always be there for you. Let's spread more love...

Don't be afraid to seek help. I went to a Malaysian government hospital UMMC for my depression. Don't be afraid to do the same. This post is inspired by @selfloveclubb"

3. The man having the kayaking adventuring of a lifetime just two weeks before he died by hanging himself.

"Today is the last day of national suicide prevention month. Look up the warning signs... NIMH.ORG can help! Share some kindness... it's free and make yourself aware to help yourself & your loved ones! #takecareofyourself #takecareofeachother #suicidepreventionmonth"

4. The woman enjoying a picnic on a stunning day, three days before she tried to drown herself.


A post shared by Susie Q Finn (@welcome.to.derry) on Oct 1, 2017 at 11:36am PDT

"Three days before I tried to drown myself in the bathtub #faceofdepression"

5. The young mother living in a small town who cries alone behind closed doors but keeps on going day after day for her beautiful son.

"I smile by day, I have to. I work at a gas station on a fairly busy hwy. I am the face the people see that represents this little town. No matter how bad the day, and how much I just want to cry, I smile and make customers feel good about themselves with little compliments.

I cry behind closed doors. As soon as the day is done and I have no more people to fake a smile for, I cry. I contemplate my fate.

But what hurts the most is wanting to stay on this earth for only 1 person and 1 person only, the little boy in that picture, my 4.5-year-old son, while the rest of me just wants to let go. Depression and anxiety aren't crying all the time and sulking, it's the continuous battle inside your own mind. #faceofdepression #youdneverknow #sixfeetfromtheedge"

6. The sparkling Jewel with a beaming face and a beautiful soul to match.

"#faceofdepression #nationalsuicidepreventionmonth #thefaceofdepressionandanxiety"

 7. The mother of twins and social worker battling postpartum depression.

"This is the #faceofdepression. It was one of the proudest days of my life, the day I received my Master's Degree in Social Work in 2013. It had been a long grueling year of working full-time in child welfare, attending class in the evenings, doing an internship on the weekends, raising and breastfeeding twin babies, and somehow managing to find time to do homework and still snuggle my babies. I had a village of help around me.

This day was the accumulation of all that hard work, sacrifice, and perseverance. It was also one of the lowest points in my life. I was suffering from severe Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. I functioned well on the outside, numbly making it through each day. I would smile, laugh at times, play with my babies, lead my team, interact with friends. But inside I was a mess. A few months after this picture was taken, I would kiss my babies goodbye and drive away. It was the grace of God and a set of circumstances that would save my life that day.

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And only those absolutely closest to me knew how dire was my emotional state. I felt like a horrible, worthless person. I had SO much to be thankful for — and I loved my children with my entire being. But I couldn't stop the thoughts that plagued me, the darkness that clawed at my mind every moment of every day. I was slowly losing the battle and I was tired of fighting what sought to destroy me.

I couldn't control it. I tried to deny it, to hide it, to overcome on my own. I was a GOOD mom, I loved my kids. I couldn't possibly have Postpartum depression. Christians aren't supposed to be depressed, right!?! But I was powerless to change it. I felt I had failed as a mom. It was the simple kindness of a few select people who reached out and walked alongside me. Who carried me through those dark places. Ones that lifted my arms to God when I was too tired from the battle to lift them myself.

September is National Suicide Awareness month. You never know when your kindness may make a difference in someone's life. Don't assume that depression looks the same on every person. It doesn't. Depression is a liar and often hides well. I have come a long way since this time in my life. There are many more good days than bad days. But every so often, I feel those claws pull at me, the darkness threaten. I am so very, very thankful that the #faceofdepression in my life looks very different now. The grace of God covers me each day — on both bad days and good. Be the hand of God in someone else's life. Show kindness and compassion, even when you don't think someone deserves it. Because you never know when they might just need it most." 

8. The former beauty queen turned successful physician who seems to have it ALL.

"Here is a #faceofdepression. This was taken during one of my life's most difficult times. Would you have known? I am a devout Catholic, a physician, a former Miss Alabama, a loving daughter, sister, and dog mom. I have what the world considers a most desirable of lives on the outside, but only those close to me know my tender heart, what makes me human and humbles me. I recently lost a colleague to suicide, thought about losing myself, and help patients struggling with depression every day in the ED. Please consider walking with us Sunday, November 5th. Click the link to donate and help save lives. #unashamed #stopthestigma This is my 3rd cousin... God Bless You, Amanda!"

RELATED: I Tried To Commit Suicide While I Was Pregnant

9. The last photo a mother will ever have with her son.

"The face of depression my son and the last family photo I'll ever have with him. Smiles can hide pain. Remember that and know everyone is deserving of help. Love and understanding. #Suicideawareness #Suicideprevention #Faceofdepression"

10. The loving aunt you would never believe ever loses her glorious smile.

"My very favoritest. #iadoreher #rivergirl #babygirl #thefaceofdepression #faceofdepression #auntie"

Please remember that there are several options if you or someone you know needs help dealing with an immediate crisis. Call 911 if you think a family member may harm themselves or others.

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cats, Batman and Margot. She's an experienced generalist with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, pop culture, and true crime.

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on October 2017 and was updated with the latest information.

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